Asthma Research Has Him Up and Running
Hunter, 15, has had asthma since he was in first grade. He usually needed to use an inhaler every day just to breathe freely and running any distance was out of the question. This made it hard to blend in and fully participate in activities such as Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC, the high-school-based program for United States armed forces training) during his freshman year.
Hunter’s asthma brought him to the attention of a group of researchers at the Nemours Children's Specialty Care, Jacksonville, in northeast Florida. The group is led by John J. Lima, PharmD, director of the Center for Pharmacogenomics and Translational Research, and principal investigator of the American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Center (ACRC) at Nemours Children's Specialty Care/University of Florida Consortium in Jacksonville. He and Deanna Seymour, RN, BSN, clinical research coordinator, thought Hunter would be a good candidate for a study for asthma patients they were doing on using continuous positive airway pressure (or CPAP, a machine most often used to help those with obstructive sleep apnea breathe more easily during sleep by maintaining air pressure in their throats). After learning of the study, Hunter and his mother Brandy agreed to participate. The study, entitled The Effect of Positive Airway Pressure on Reducing Airway Reactivity in Patients with Asthma (CPAP), is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is being performed by the American Lung Association’s Network of ACRCs.
Breathing Easier Makes Life Easier
For a period of 6–9 months, Hunter used the CPAP machine at night. He found that the machine helped open his airways — and without having to use his inhaler. And his airways stayed open all day long. Hunter says it’s making a real difference in being able to run and participate in Junior ROTC: “Now I don’t need my inhaler at all. Before the study I wasn’t able to run much, so I couldn’t fully participate. Now I can run and take part fully.”
“Hunter’s experience is exciting and important. The purpose of this study is to determine if CPAP improves asthma. If effective, CPAP will introduce an entirely new way to treat asthma without medication,” says Dr. Lima. “If we can reduce the number of inhalers and the frequency of inhaled rescue medication with this new treatment, it will not only relieve the burden of asthma, but improve the quality of life for patients with asthma like Hunter. The results of the study won’t be known for a year or two, but Hunter’s story suggests that CPAP may be effective.”
As for participating in groundbreaking research, Hunter shyly, almost reluctantly, smiles. “I didn’t know what to expect at first,” he says. “I didn’t know whether it would help me. And I didn’t think about whether my participating might help others. When I realized that it might help other asthmatics in the future, it was a good feeling.”