Co Armagh’s mother shared the story of A .’s suffering A severe, near-fatal asthma attack for nearly two years.
Anuska Blake of Craigavon spoke as a leading charity supporting all people with lung disease today launches its new Fight for Breath strategy, which aims to transform lung health in the region.
A new analysis reveals that Northern Ireland has the worst mortality rate from lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared to the Republic of Ireland and one of the worst mortality rates in Western Europe.
Asthma + lung data from Northern Ireland in the UK shows that if 100,000 people were arrested in NI, 139 would have died of respiratory illness, which equates to 124 per 100,000 in the Republic of Ireland.
The charity says the condition of the lungs needs to be treated as seriously as other major illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.
According to recent data, in seven years, nearly 17,000 people died from lung diseases such as asthma attacks, exacerbations of COPD and pneumonia in NI.
Anuska, 32, says her experience with a severe asthma attack in October 2020 was “horrific.”
“I was taken to the respiratory department, where I spent five days on oxygen. One of my lungs almost collapsed and that was just a few minutes before I died,” Anouska recalls.
“Fortunately the doctors saved my life, but I’ve had Covid twice since then and have had it for a long time now, so I know how devastating my shortness of breath can be.
“I’ve been to many different hospitals, several times I had to breathe air in the emergency room, I was in the respiratory ward where I had to take oxygen and several courses of antibiotics with steroids.
I think more support is needed for people like me with lung disease. There are a lot of long-term symptoms. I feel short of breath, even walking or standing, and I feel tired constantly. ”
Anuska added: “It is really important for me to share my experience and hope it makes a difference. I hope there will be more measures in the future to prevent lung diseases such as air pollution.
“We don’t have to wait for people to get sick to help them, there has to be a better way.”
Respiratory disease is one of the three biggest killers in Northern Ireland, with one in five people diagnosed with lung disease at some point in their life.
Asthma + Lung According to Northern Ireland in the UK, lung disease in the region costs more than 250 million yen, making it the fourth most expensive disease after mental health and musculoskeletal and heart disease.
They say a lack of research prevents the development of more effective diagnostic tests that would help people make accurate and faster diagnoses. This includes new treatments that can reduce symptoms or even treat some lung diseases, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence and apps that will help people better manage their condition and stay in hospital.
According to the charity, NHS care has also failed many people with lung problems, with the majority of people with asthma and COPD in the UK not receiving basic help from a doctor, such as correct use of an inhaler and review of medication.
That was the case even before the pandemic imposed a burden on respiratory services, they said.
Another factor contributing to the high mortality rate is air pollution, which is linked to about 800 premature deaths each year in Northern Ireland and is a major cause of new lung conditions and exacerbation of existing ones.
Asthma + Lung UK in Northern Ireland says the Department of Health must urgently introduce a lung health strategy to reduce mortality and hospitalization from lung disease.
Not only will this save lives, but it will also help overcome health disparities.
Currently, people with lung problems in poorer areas are three and a half times more likely to die from lung disease than people living in more affluent parts of Northern Ireland.
This may be due to the fact that they are more susceptible to air pollution, poor quality damp housing and cigarette smoke.
Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma and Lung Division Northern Ireland, UK: “These shocking statistics show that you are more likely to die of lung disease here in Northern Ireland than in the Republic, despite our extensive health system.
We must act now to change the respiratory service and save lives. We need the support of all sides for the lung health strategy in the Assembly elections and to take the drastic action that we so badly need.
The pandemic has drawn people’s attention to how the condition of the lungs can lead to death and murder and how horrific it can be to fight shortness of breath.
“As the only UK charity in Northern Ireland battling for everyone with lungs, we have an ambitious new strategy to fight every breath, including providing our vital services such as our helpline, health advice and support groups.
But we need the next CEO to prevent lung disease by investing in smoking cessation and developing a new clean air strategy.
“We want all lung patients who need our support to contact us if they need our help at asmaandlung.org.uk and know we are here for them, we fight for every breath.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Because mortality rates can be subject to natural annual fluctuations in order to make a robust assessment of the magnitude of any long-term differences that may exist. A trend analysis should be undertaken.
The department has no immediate plans to develop a comprehensive strategy because it will take time and resources, however the Health and Social Security Council has created an important and termination group to develop plans for rehabilitation and support for outpatient respiratory services. It depends on restoring respiratory services affected by the epidemic.
“The group will agree on a regional approach for patients who are the tallest waiters, who are in the emergency room but not a red flag.
“Significant reinvestment is needed to restore and transform health and social care, and this includes the drive to improve respiratory services, however, at this point, until a separate lung health strategy becomes possible, patients with respiratory problems will continue to work.” Diagnose and treat it with our current HSC services.
In addition, a number of activities are underway to reduce the harmful effects of smoking on lung health. Northern Ireland’s tobacco control strategy aims to create a tobacco-free society, and a wide range of free smoking cessation services are available run by specially trained staff.
Services are offered in many community pharmacies, primary care practices, HSC Trust premises, community and volunteer organizations and can be set up in the workplace.