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Innovation gave me back my ability to breathe

02/20/2019

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have severe asthma. What I can remember, from the time I was officially diagnosed at age two, is the extreme difficulty I had performing basic activities, such as sleeping through the night or sometimes even speaking. While other children were limited only by their imaginations, I was limited by my inability to breathe.


Severe asthma touches every part of my life. Doctors told me my lungs could only handle 40 to 50 percent of normal capacity, which makes everything a challenge. Every breath feels like a belt tightening around my lungs. Physical activity was out of the question. I even had to give up cooking holiday meals for my family because they became too difficult. 
 

Additionally, I lived with an ever-present risk of an unexpected attack—the kind that goes well beyond the inability to catch my breath. Severe asthma attacks are completely debilitating, painful and, in some cases, deadly. Trips to the ER and urgent care throughout the years were common, and the anxiety that resulted from knowing every attack could be my last took a huge toll on both me and my family. 


This fear is not unfounded: About a year ago, I almost lost my life to one of these attacks. It came on so suddenly and it was so painful that I remember thinking I was scared I was going to die. At the time, my family began preparing for the worst. 


I’m lucky in that I made it through to tell my story. I’m also lucky in that, a month later, under the guidance of my doctor, I began a new type of treatment—an injectable biologic designed to precisely target the underlying cause of inflammation in my lungs.


I couldn’t believe the result. 


After the treatment, I slept through the night without waking from shortness of breath for the first time in years. The change since then has been so profound that it feels like I’ve been given a new pair of lungs. One of the most rewarding moments came when recent breathing tests revealed I now have normal lung function—something I’ve never had before in my life. 


Gone are the days of daily medication that, while helpful, couldn’t remove the risk for a sudden attack. Gone are the days of having to severely limit my activity. A long walk to the baseball diamond is no longer a barrier to watching my son play, and being outdoors with my family is now possible. Last holiday season, I cooked my first family meal. 
The new treatment has given me my life back, and more importantly, it’s given me back to my family. 


Without innovation, I wouldn’t have the life I’m living today. I count myself extremely lucky to live in an era in which medicine has progressed tremendously. In fact, for the first time ever, the possibility of finding a cure for people like me is no longer science fiction. This disease affects so many, and effective treatments will have an equally large impact. 
To the researchers behind today’s innovation, I eagerly say, “thank you!" Thank you for doing the work that has given me the kind of life I never knew I could have. For giving me my new lungs. And for giving me back to my family. It’s your commitment that will one day make severe asthma a thing of the past.