In the roster of serious diseases asthma is perhaps not perceived as the significant threat it is if family members are asthma free.

In my family we have lost one person to asthma. To protect the families privacy we could call him George. Engaged to my sister, he was in his early thirties, working in a bar in Manitoba. On this particular day he was working the evening shift, and suffered an asthma attack so severe that it killed him. At first the bar patrons did not realize the seriousness of what was happening, and by the time they did and medical help arrived, it was too late. That was in the ?70?s, before my grandchildren were born, and prior to their being diagnosed with asthma.

Both my grandsons are never far from their puffers. My 20 year old grandson had an attack last summer that, for a while at least, left his survival in doubt.

Michael has had asthma for years and has a puffer that he uses regularly. Last summer he had gone to bed and woke up in the middle of the night having difficulty breathing. He said later that his puffer that he kept on his bedside table was empty, and he had not realized it. Michael then went out to his car to get his spare puffer out of the glove compartment. As it turned out it was dried out from sitting in a hot car.

My daughter and her husband bundled Michael into the car and drove to the nearest hospital, a 20 mile drive. Michael?s lips turned blue on the drive in, and when my family arrived at the hospital he had stopped breathing. The medical team saved his life, and in the aftermath, quite a few changes were made in the day-to-day regime of how Michael controls his condition.

His doctors tell him that his Asthma would not be as severe if he lived in a different area, or even the city, so this year he is making plans to relocate out of farm country and into a more arid atmosphere, one that offers concrete instead of wheat.

Or he could follow in his grandmother?s footsteps and move north and at least 100 kilometres away from the nearest farm operation. It doesn?t mean that one is totally free of the effects of flora and fauna but it certainly helps.

The struggle with asthma effects decisions both large and small. On a practical level it may mean those riding adventures are out of the question, and Black Beauty will never grace the stables at the family farm. Pets, fresh flowers on the table, or carpets of any kind may well be among the missing. Living with ashma is a struggle that is not limited to the ashmatic, but effects all of the family in varying degrees.

Often we don?t take things like ashma seriously enough. Clearly we should, and now my family does.