Brave Stevie's lost battle with asthma

NEARLY every family is touched by asthma. It is one of the fast-growing illnesses in our community and effects more than 5.1 million people in Britain – one in 13 adults and one in eight children.

NEARLY every family is touched by asthma. It is one of the fast-growing illnesses in our community and effects more than 5.1 million people in Britain – one in 13 adults and one in eight children.

JOANNE CONSTABLE speaks to a Felixstowe family whose young daughter, an asthma sufferer, died thgis summer.

LITTLE Stevie Mayes was full of life.

She raced around like any eight-year-old girl, full of energy and enthusiasm, a bundle of joy, deeply loved by her family.

No-one except those closest to her knew she suffered from asthma, a disease which in the end proved a major contributory factor when she fell ill and tragically died.

Asthma rarely proves fatal, but it can be the critical factor which causes complications in an illness, especially one connected with breathing, such as a collapsed lung, pneumonia or other respiratory infections and problems.

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She died from a right pneumothorax, which is effectively a collapsed lung, and her asthma, which was aggravated by the condition, proved an important contributory factor in her death.

Until now, her cause of death has not been revealed and her mum and dad, Donna and Stevie have not spoken about it for fear of worrying their daughter's schoolfriends, a number of whom suffer from asthma.

It was on Sunday June 30, that Stevie, from Walton, Felixstowe, suddenly collapsed and died.

Donna said Stevie had fallen falling ill on the Friday before she died, and she kept her off school – Causton Junior in Maidstone Road – and at home for the day.

Donna took Stevie to the doctors later that day and was told that she had something similar to croup, which is an inflammation of the upper airway that leads to a characteristic barking cough.

Whenever the youngster had a cold or infection, her asthma would set in, and on that Saturday there was no exception as she started wheezing.

Her parents were used to Stevie suffering from her asthma when she fell ill and so knew it would only get worse if they did not get her to hospital so that a nebuliser – where the user wears a face mask to breath in a mixture of drugs pumped out by the machine – could be used to ease her breathing.

Donna went through the normal procedure of contacting her doctor who advised her to take Stevie to the normal ward at Ipswich hospital.

Stevie's grandma stayed to look after Stevie while Donna went out in the car to pick up her husband so that they could take their daughter together to the Bergholt ward.

But while they were out Stevie suddenly collapsed in her grandma's arms.

Donna said: "She asked mum for a cuddle, had a hug and just flopped."

Her grandma, thinking Stevie had just fainted, took her outside for some air, just as Donna and Stevie came home.

An ambulance was called at around 11.30pm but Stevie was pronounced dead later on the Sunday morning.

The doctors told her family that even if Stevie had been sat on a doctor's lap when she collapsed she still would have died because the decompressed lung had instantly smothered her vital organs.

Stevie was not a regular sufferer of asthma as it only effected her when she had an illness.

Donna said: "It never really got her down. She went down really quickly but went up really quickly."

Deaths direct from asthma are still rare, though last November, Charlotte Coleman, the 33-year-old actress who rose to fame in the box office smash hit film Four Weddings and a Funeral, died from a massive asthma attack.

Experts say the asthma is increasing globally by 50 per cent each decade, and there are now fears that East Anglia is becoming a hot-spot for the disease, especially as "triggers" which cause attacks include pollen from crops and crop-spraying.


Factfile on asthma

n Asthma is a controllable but incurable disease.

n It is a chronic, inflammatory lung disease characterised by recurrent breathing problems.

n Asthma attacks are when the air passages in the lungs narrow and breathing becomes difficult. It is caused by the airways over-reacting to certain triggers.

n The lining of the airways become inflamed and start to narrow. This can lead to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or a tight feeling in the chest.

??Famous sufferers include Beethoven, Dickens, John F.Kennedy, Elizabeth taylor, Alice Cooper, Martin Scoresese, Dennis Rodman.

Factfile on spontaneous pneumothorax

n Spontaneous pneumothorax is a collapse of part of all of a lung caused by pressure from free air in the chest between the two layers of the thin membranes, which cover the lung. An extensive collapse is more likely if the lungs have been damaged by asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema.

n Sufferers experience sharp chest pain, which may extend to a shoulder or across the chest or abdomen. Shortness of breath and rapid breathing, dry, hacking cough, bluish nails and rapid pulse.

n Physical exertion in a healthy person such as track and field events, and sports which requires stretching the chest and rib cage can cause it.