Joan Wallace is a mum of three and has been living with asthma since 2011.
My husband died in March 2011 and in June I was upstairs at home one day when I suddenly collapsed. I couldn’t get a breath.
I was taken to hospital and diagnosed with clots on my lungs and that was the start of the asthma.
The doctors couldn’t understand why it had happened. At the time I talked to so many doctors but it was a mystery to them.
I was put on medication to prevent further clots but my lungs didn’t repair fully and I was left with asthma.
Having asthma really does have an effect on what you can and cannot do. I don’t get asthma attacks, I suffer from breathlessness. I take an inhaler in the morning and at night and also if I am going out during the day or have to do anything that may leave me breathless.
There is no point me going out on windy day. And, if I am out and there is no lift or escalator I just stay on whatever floor I’m on, so it does restrict me.
I got a stair lift installed at home as I had difficulty carrying things up the stairs but I have since had it taken out.
What made the difference for me was meeting Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke.
I did the six-week Taking Control Self-Management Programme on how to cope with a long-term illness which changed everything for me. When I came out of the hospital I was given a prescription for inhalers but no one showed me how to use them. And I didn’t even know there was a dedicated asthma nurse in my doctor’s surgery.
As a result of Taking Control at NICHS, I joined a support group and we meet once a month and this has been a real lifeline for me. Everyone is so willing to support one another.
People come and talk to us about eating well and having a healthy lifestyle and each week you set yourself a goal. Before I went to Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke I was trying to cope on my own but now, with the help of others, I am coping with my asthma so much better.
At the support group meetings we don’t sit around and mope but encourage each other. It is great to be among people who understand and are going through the same thing.
There are days it is hard to be motivated but I am a positive person and you have to adapt your life to asthma.
I now volunteer for Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke twice a week, mainly manning the reception over lunchtime. I really enjoy coming into the office and the camaraderie of being part of the NICHS team. I love being able to give something back to the charity that has helped me so much.
Find out more about the respiratory services that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offer.