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Dublin: 16 °C Sunday 22 September, 2019
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'I've had asthma attacks at school, on holidays, even my debs - I've just had to learn to live with it'

Asthma kills one person every week in Ireland but Cat Kennedy hasn’t let the condition slow her down.

CAT KENNEDY IS a primary school teacher with a very active life. She loves swimming, running and climbing but she always needs to be prepared for an asthma attack that could leave her in hospital.

Kennedy has had asthma since she was a baby and was constantly getting attacks as a child.

“I was in and out of Temple Street for my childhood, I don’t think I ever had a full week in school. It was very hard to make friendships.”

Kennedy said that by the time she was in secondary school, her attendance was a bit better but she still suffered a lot of attacks.

One such attack struck on the night of her debs, “It was on in Kildare. I was in a beautiful dress.

“Luckily my dad was there and he knew the five heart rules and he was able to keep everyone calm.”

An ambulance was called and she was brought to hospital, where she ended up staying for about a week.

Relying on others

Asthma kills one person every week in Ireland.

Kennedy said she is doing much better now and hasn’t been hospitalised for about a year.

“At the moment, I have a portable nebuliser and I bring that everywhere with me.” Kennedy also says that she gets two injections a month and that does her ‘”the world of good”.

“If it’s not a bad attack, I can treat it at home and take steroids.” She also wears an emergency bracelet “because people don’t know that you’re carrying an inhaler”.

Describing a holiday in Spain, Kennedy said, “The bracelet saved my life.

Somebody around me noticed my bracelet and straight away started looking for my inhaler and I was able to point and show it was in my bag.

“It’s important you take the inhaler as soon as you can, before it gets too bad.”

Asked if she gets nervous when she feels an attack coming on, Kennedy said:

If I’m around people who know me I’m quite comfortable but if I’m in a strange place, a crowded supermarket or something it can be very scary.
“You’re very debilitated and you’re relying on people around you to stay calm.”

Active life

However, she hasn’t allowed the asthma to stop her living life to the full.

“I just had to learn to live with it. I have an extremely active life. I swim three times a week, I walk in and out of school. I do everything.

“I love mountain climbing but sometimes the pollen affects the asthma, the change of seasons can be difficult. I’ve often had attacks at school sports days.”

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Speaking about teaching, Kennedy said, “I absolutely love it, I have a great class. I’ve been a teacher for nine years.

“I haven’t had an attack during the working day but I’ve felt unwell where I’ve had to take the inhaler every six hours.”

She also says she knows her body very well now, and knows the signs of an attack coming on.

“A few days before, I get very tired, I go very quiet. My chest starts to ache a bit and it gets a bit tight and I go pale and I know what’s coming on.

“I’ve gotten better at knowing when I’m feeling unwell and I know to take my blue inhaler and steroids.”

However she added that “it’s very hard to maintain full-time job – when I get sick, I get really sick”.

“It’s a full-time job trying to keep yourself well, you have to stay on top of it all the time.”

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Today is World Asthma Day and the Asthma Society of Ireland is encouraging people to learn the five-step rule so they can assist if somebody is having an asthma attack.

Source: AsthmaSocietyIRL/YouTube

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