I never knew how serious asthma was until recently. Growing up, one of my best friends had asthma. I had no idea what it was. I only knew that she had to use some kind of pump and that her mom, who was an avid smoker, had to smoke outside.
I learned recently that asthma is not like having bad allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood, and it is estimated that nearly 5 million youngsters under age 18 have this disease. In children ages 5-14 years, the rate of death from asthma almost doubled between 1980 and 1993, with higher rates amongst African American children.
Researchers point to environmental factors, such as pollution in urban areas, as well as access to healthcare to be contributors to blacks being disproportionately affected by the disease. One proven fact is that exposure to second hand smoke can be detrimental to an asthmatic child and can even be one of the factors that eventually cause asthma. The Office of Minority Health reported that children exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke exposure are at increased risk for acute lower respiratory tract infections, such as asthma.
Smoking has become such a taboo topic in our country. Personally, I grew up in a house full of cigarette smoke and to this day the smell of it makes me gag. I believe that everyone has the God given right to destroy their bodies, but I do think that your rights end where my rights begin and smoking in public places or in the midst of other people is simply selfish.
Asthma is serious and children die in our communities at an alarming rate from the disease. If smoking is one of the known factors contributing to the disease, perhaps we all can make an effort in protecting ourselves and our children from second hand smoke.
Recently, a precious baby girl, DaVae lost her life to asthma at seven years old. Her mom, Jenée wanted to share the story to help other parents with asthmatic children and to shed light on the seriousness of this disease.
Please be mindful that this story is very detailed and may not be appropriate for all ages.
Arian Moore: When was DaVae diagnosed with asthma?
Jenée White: DaVae like her older sister and brother was diagnosed with asthma as a toddler. Her father and I both suffered from asthma as children. Her father outgrew his as an adolescent and I have a low dependency on my inhaler.
AM: What type of medicines did DaVae have to take? Did she have to take these daily?
JW: DaVae’s medicines included: Albuterol (nebulizer breathing treatment, and inhaler), Advair and Singulair. Her daily routine required her to take one Singulair pill each night, along with inhaling a single dose of Advair twice a day. These medicines are both preventatives, which were to keep her asthma controlled to lessen her dependency on rescue treatments such as the albulterol inhaler and nebulizer (breathing treatment). Singulair is a preventative for difficulty of breathing, chest tightness, wheezing and coughing caused by asthma.
My children have state issued health insurance through Wellcare, which made it difficult to refill due to the cost of the medicine. On several occasions the refill of this medication had been temporarily denied by Wellcare for further explanation of need by the doctor based on the expense of the drug. Eventually it got to the point where my daughter recognized the process and began warning me when she was low on her medication because she saw how stressed I was when trying to refill her medicine.
DaVae, like her brother and sister typically experience problems with asthma when their body’s immune system is low from fighting a cold or during allergy seasons, which due to the high molds in Georgia, is year round. During the times when DaVae was fighting a cold and had experienced heightened asthmatic reactions such as wheezing, shortness of breath and/or tightening within her chest, then she became dependant on the Albuterol inhaler for immediate need, as well as, Albulterol sulfate through a nebulizer (breathing treatment) which was administered every four hours depending on need.
AM: Do you think there is enough information provided by physicians on asthma and its dangers?
JW: I was very fortunate to have a doctor (Dr. Kathie Brichant, Tri-County Pediatrics) who took my children’s asthma very serious and made clear to them the dangers of having the chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. I can’t necessarily say that prior to their doctor here in Georgia that I’ve been provided with detailed knowledge, as medicines that I took as a youth are certainly different than those prescribed to my children today. I think because it is basic knowledge to doctor that sometimes it is assumed that it is basic knowledge to the patient or patient’s parent if questions aren’t asked.
However, as a parent if it’s something you have never gone through yourself then you may not be able to identify with the struggles of your child and therefore not know the questions to ask. Sometimes as parents we have to dig further to get a better understanding especially when it appears that a doctor’s description is seemingly a foreign language to our ears. I’ve always researched my children’s meds online to help understand what is going on with them and for further clarification when I didn’t have the right questions to propose to my doctor.
AM: How often did she have asthma attacks?
JW: DaVae experienced struggles with her asthma typically when her immune system was down due to a cold, so that could be several times a year as the weather fluctuates. The first week of a new school year she was guaranteed to catch a cold with the introduction of a surrounding of new germs to shock the immune system. I would say DaVae struggled with her asthma on average at least 10 times a year, possibly more in the winter months. She did not have exercise induced asthma, however when you have asthma your airways are a bit more restricted than the average person, so it doesn’t take much for your airways to become further restricted when under the duress of heightened activity. For instance, my children use a Peak Flow Meter which measures a person’s ability to breath out air. The average person can blow between 700-800 on the meter, my children and I blow between 200-400.
AM: As a parent, what type of special precautions and arrangements did you have to make in the home to accommodate a child with asthma?
JW: One thing that parents of asthmatic children have to be aware of is your surroundings; specifically here in Georgia because of the moisture in the air this state is subjected to high molds, which is a likely cause of asthma flair ups. It’s best to keep your house clean and bathroom areas dry to prevent to spreading of molds. I made a habit of checking my air vents routinely and replacing as needed. When living in Colorado, because of the dry climate, my children had a steam vaporizer in their rooms. I would advise that as a parent that you are aware of your child’s medicines as well as their usage.
AM: Please walk us through what happened the day DaVae passed away in terms of the asthma attack.
JW: The day of DaVae’s final struggle with asthma was a normal day. She was getting over a cold which caused her asthma to flare up, but nothing out of the ordinary, so I thought. That Sunday morning we woke up, as the kids and I had a sleep over in my bed, I cooked a big breakfast. My daughter was playing on the Nintendo Wii with her big sister Donyae and shortly after running through the house with her big brother Daeyon.
Needless to say it was a fun filled day, but around 4:30pm I noticed DaVae was a little tight in her chest, so I told her she needed a nebulizer treatment, and she complained, so I told her after dinner was done (which I was serving at the time) she had to go take her neb and she agreed. Just as I asked she went upstairs with her brother who was accompanying her to play the card game memory while she medicated, as a way to associate her medicine with fun. Because she was so tight in her chest, I gave her a double dose of the abuterol, which is typical when the kids are really struggling and has a longer lasting effect.
While DaVae and her brother Daeyon where playing cards and she was nebbing, I was running a hot bath for DaVae to help loosen up her tightened airways. After running her bath, she completed her neb and came into the bathroom and said “mom it didn’t work,” and I looked at her and could tell that the breathing treatment had not had any effect on her, which has never happened. Even though she was not wheezing or unable to speak properly, I could see her struggling to breathe by watching her body. DaVae then got into the bathtub and I rubbed her back, but after of what seemed like a minute she began squirming and I felt helpless, so I told her “baby I don’t think there is anything else mommy can do for you. I think we’re going to have to go to the hospital.” When I said that she began to panic about going to the hospital. I had her get out of the tub and get dressed and while she was getting her pajamas on her brother and sister sat down with her to explain to her that the hospital wasn’t a scary place.
We all got in our truck and started off toward Piedmont Henry Hospital, which is about a mile away from our house. In route to the hospital DaVae said “mommy I can’t breathe” and I began pleading that she breathe however she could as I was afraid of getting in a car accident. More than half way to the hospital DaVae said again “mommy I can’t breathe,” and her brother and sister were panicking as well. Just as I was turning into the emergency room my baby spoke her last words to me “mommy I can’t breathe” and at that point she stretched her body across her brother and sister in the back seat of my truck and went limp just as I pulled up to the emergency room.
My daughter Donyae began to scream “mommy her face is turning white.” After parking I ran around the truck to carry her limp body into to emergency room where I was met by a nurse who took her from me searching for an open room. Once he located a room for her a team came in and immediately began to do compressions on her little body. They began asking me questions and I let them know of the events leading up to that moment. They gave her multiple shots of the epipen and applied the defibrillator to her chest twice, as I watched the machines have no change as her body lay limp and the compressions continued for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes the doctor stopped and asked his staff if anyone had any suggestions and everyone agreed that there was nothing else they could do. He looked at the clock and then looked at me and said “I’m sorry there’s nothing else we can do” and at that point I finally broke down as I had remained quiet the entire time trying not to be a distraction.
AM: Tell us about her jewelry line and the inspiration.
JW: In her memory I felt it would be appropriate to add a children’s line to our family’s small handcrafted jewelry business, Jurney Jurray, which was started by me and my children March 2011. Prior to her death, DaVae and her love for butterflies and pink was the inspiration behind our logo and color scheme, as my children have been factors in building our family business. The line we dedicate to her is the DaVae LaVon Collection which exudes her love for all things pink and shiny.
AM: Please share anything else you’d like our readers to know.
JW: Our family is well as our faith is intact. On the day of her death January 29, 2012 at 7-years-old DaVae picked up my daily devotional Woman of Prayer and hours before her death she read about Faith and Fear and after her death I knew she was walking hand in hand with our Savior. My baby did in 7 years what we are all striving to do in a lifetime, which is to live in our purpose and make it home to our Father.
A heartbreaking story that ends in a family filled with faith knowing that DaVae is resting with Jesus. The purpose of us sharing this story is not to cause despair, but to be frank about the realities of asthma. Let DaVae’s story inspire you in some way to make changes in your life.
If you are a smoker, please be mindful of the environments in which you smoke. It would be even better if you decided to quit smoking as it is definitely an unhealthy habit, but if not, please consider the rest of us.