It was hot and Jerry was unresponsive. Arriving at the emergency room, the boy’s skin was pallid and his lips were blue. As the nurses began to administer oxygen to her son, Jerry’s mom felt guilt and dread.It was the summer of 2007, mom recalls. The weather had been scorching hot for a week and Jerry’s asthma had flared up three days before. Flora had begun giving her 12-year old son albuterol every four hours. The inhaler helped, but only for a while. Three days passed with no improvement, so she increased the dose to once every two hours. Jerry’s asthma continued to choke him of breath and when her husband Carlos returned home from work he put his son and wife in the car and made an immediate trip to the hospital.
What was happening? What is this asthma and why doesn’t the medicine help?
Questions like these, and others, filled Flora with humiliation and anger. Asthma was a foreign word in her vocabulary and she began to realize that her doctor had let her down completely. Flora had no idea how to help Jerry and now he was nearly unconscious.
As big a crisis as this was for Flora and Carlos, Children’s Hospital LA determined that Jerry’s asthma was controllable and referred him to QueensCare Health Centers’ Pediatric Asthma Disease Management Program (PADM). There, Jerry and his parents worked with his pediatrician to develop a plan of treatment and Community Health Worker (CHW) Edith worked with his parents to educate and empower them on the correct use of his asthma medications and devices. Edith conducted a home environment assessment visit to identify asthma “triggers” in the family home that could be contributing to Jerry’s asthma.
With persistent advocacy from PADM’s CHWs, the family’s building manager eventually agreed to repair the easily identified asthma triggers, which included mold infested wall panels and holes in the walls that allowed insects and rodents access into the home.
It’s been almost two years since Jerry last visited the emergency room, and his mom and dad don’t expect to be going back. With support from QHCs PADM program, the family understands Jerry’s asthma and its treatment. Flora feels empowered, informed and most importantly, able to control her son’s asthma. “With my friends at PADM, I have someone who is there for me. I’m not an asthma expert, but I feel well educated and in control,” said Flora.
And what about Jerry? He’s a 12-year old boy, feeling stronger, playing harder and even losing weight. Flora adds, “. . . He’s a healthier, happier child who is able to run and live a normal life, just like any other child.”