Looking down at my beautiful daughter Amy lying on a hospital bed hooked up to life support, tears rolled down my cheeks.
How had it come to this?
Just hours earlier, she’d been chatting away to me on Facetime. Now, she was lifeless in front of my eyes as family and friends leaned in to kiss her forehead and say their final goodbyes.
For years, I’d watched Amy battle with asthma – still, I never imagined her condition would eventually kill her.
Amy was diagnosed when she was a child. She began struggling to breathe, aged three and, having the condition myself, I recognised the signs.
As a youngster, although she would suffer attacks around four times a year and end up in hospital, my husband Paul, now 51, and I were still able to mostly manage her condition with medication.
As she got older though, Amy’s asthma got worse. From the age of six, Amy was under the care of a hospital respiratory clinic, but would get so frustrated by her illness.
Aged 14, she was put on long-term liquid steroids and had various inhalers, but would often worry about what would happen if she had an attack when she was alone.
She’d led quite an active life until she turned 15 and enjoyed gymnastics, dancing, and swimming. But suddenly she needed her reliever inhaler much more often and would get out of breath just walking a short distance.
She’d get so frustrated by her illness. At 18 she’d watch her friends go out clubbing, yet she couldn’t go because she was too afraid of having an asthma attack.
All I could do was support her and try to alleviate her fears of ending up in hospital or not being able to recover from an attack. She didn’t mind being on a children’s ward but was really scared when she became an adult about possibly being away from her home and family for days.
I always sat and told her to mirror my breathing to slow hers down. When she would panic and say, ‘I can’t breathe Mum,’ I tell her, ‘Yes you can because you’re talking to me.’ I would tell her everything was going to be OK.
When she met her partner Keagan in 2017, and they set up home together, I was so happy for her. It was obvious he loved Amy, and would do anything he could to make life easier for her – doing the cleaning and chores when she couldn’t manage.
And although I was delighted when Amy told me she was expecting their first child Bailey, now five, I was anxious about the effect the pregnancy might have on her condition. Doctors said it would either improve, stay the same or get worse.
Luckily, Amy wasn’t too bad during pregnancy but, afterwards, she had to be put on a trial drug for several months in attempts to control her asthma. It helped a little, but she kept having attacks every two months.
Every time Keagan would call 999, paramedics treated Amy at home with a nebuliser – a device that administers medicine through a mask via a fine mist, making it easier to inhale – or took her to hospital if she needed further help.
I don’t know whether air pollution played a part in triggering Amy’s asthma, but I do know she would sometimes find it hard to walk the six minutes from her home in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, to her son’s school because it was on a busy road with lots of traffic.
Sadly, doctors struggled to find the right treatment to control her condition as it worsened over time. Perhaps, if there were better treatments in place for those with severe, uncontrolled asthma like Amy’s, she might still be with us today.
I always told myself when Amy was taken to hospital that they’d get her symptoms under control, and she’d return home soon. But last October, that didn’t happen.
She’d had her second child, Orla, now 13 months, by then and I remember Amy had Facetimed all of us at 9pm – me, her dad, and her brother James, 20, and sister Zoe, 17.
She was showing off a dress she’d bought Orla for Christmas and didn’t seem unwell. In fact, it was a really happy time in her life. Amy and Keagan had just moved into a new home and were getting married. She had a lot to look forward to.
I never did get to see my lovely daughter walk down the aisle.
At 1.15am, the phone rang – it was Keagan, sounding distressed. ‘Amy’s heart has stopped,’ he said in a panicked voice.
They only lived around the corner, so Paul and I drove over immediately. I rushed upstairs to find Amy lying in the doorway of their bedroom, with Keagan giving her CPR. She’d had an asthma attack and collapsed.
The children had woken up, so I took them both downstairs while we waited for the ambulance to arrive.
Paramedics managed to get Amy’s heart started again, but her brain had gone too long without oxygen by the time she got to hospital.
The severity of her attack meant Amy’s airways had closed so tightly, she hadn’t been able to get any oxygen or medicine in. It was too late by the time she’d reached hospital.
‘I’m sorry but there’s nothing more we can do,’ doctors told us.
We were advised to let friends and family know over the next two days, so they had a chance to come in and say their goodbyes to Amy before they turned her life support machine off.
I didn’t want to say goodbye – I didn’t want to believe this had really happened. I wanted to turn back time.
‘Goodbye my angel,’ I whispered as I gave her my final kiss. My heart felt like it had been torn from my chest.
Since losing Amy, nothing has been the same. I miss her every day and still can’t believe she’s gone.
Even though I have the condition myself, and Amy struggled with severe asthma for most of her life, I never expected that it would prove fatal. I was wrong.
In fact, every day four people in the UK die from an attack. I don’t think many people realise how serious asthma and other lung conditions can be.
There needs to be more support for those who have the condition, such as faster diagnosis, or referrals for specialist support when needed and free prescriptions.
More research into asthma and lung conditions is also needed. National charity Asthma + Lung UK claims that less than 2% of public funding is given for medical research into lung conditions, even though 12million people are affected by a lung condition in their lifetime.
If there was more investment in research, scientists could find cutting-edge medicines that could save lives, like that of my daughter.
That’s why I’m supporting the charity’s latest campaign, End the Lung Health Lottery – a campaign that calls for better support for people with lung conditions, wherever they live.
With better understanding of asthma, earlier diagnosis and new medicines, lives can be saved. It’s only then that people like my Amy might go on to grow old with their children.
For more information or to support Asthma + Lung UK’s End the Lung Health Lottery campaign, go to: www.asthmaandlung.org.uk/end-lung-health-lottery
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