Breathing Easy: Severe Asthma Program Provides Lifesaving Treatment and Support
Jaaire Bridges was used to dealing with severe asthma and allergies. Diagnosed at age 3, he grew up taking medications to keep his symptoms at bay. But at 10 years old, Jaaire suddenly stopped breathing from a severe asthma attack. In respiratory failure, he was rushed to UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital where he spent three days in the intensive care unit on a ventilator.
Thankfully, Jaaire survived the attack and recovered without brain damage. But the event changed his family’s life forever.
“Those were the worst three days of my life,” said Jaaire’s mom, Nancy. “I didn’t know if my son would survive. It’s by God’s grace and the help of our doctor that we got through it.”
Experience and Specialized Care for Severe Asthma
Daniel Craven, MD, Jaaire’s pediatric pulmonologist and Clinical Director of UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital’s pediatric Severe Asthma Program, found that Jaaire’s asthma severity had shifted to a higher level, in large part due to the development of more extensive and severe allergies. This included a rare type of mold allergy called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA). Not only did ABPA trigger his near-fatal attack, it damaged Jaaire’s lungs.
“At UH Rainbow, we have extensive experience in treating children with chronic asthma through the Severe Asthma Program. With proper treatment and support, all children with asthma should be able to feel good, sleep well and play sports without limitations,” explains Dr. Craven. “However, Jaaire’s situation was complicated by his lung damage. We took an aggressive approach to treatment to avoid another extreme attack and get him back to normal life.”
In addition to other medications, Dr. Craven began giving Jaaire weekly antibody injections. This helped neutralize the allergy response in his body, especially to ABPA.
“In the hospital, we learned Jaaire is allergic to virtually everything – cats, dogs, fungus, molds, grasses, trees. It goes on and on,” explained Nancy. “The injections are our ‘superhero serum’ because it helps keep his asthma under control despite all his allergies.”
Family Support and Education
In addition to the injections, UH Rainbow’s Severe Asthma Program team (which includes certified nurses, respiratory therapists, dietitians, and pediatric pulmonologists and allergists) provided Jaaire and his family extensive asthma support and education.
At every visit, nurses certified in asthma education helped Jaaire track his medications and ensure he was taking them exactly as prescribed – a vital step in keeping severe asthma under control. They also counseled the family in lifestyle changes that could reduce Jaaire’s allergen exposure and lower the risk of another attack.
“Medication is important, but the nonmedication part of the program such as education is equally vital to successful treatment. It can be painstaking for children and their families to take the steps necessary to keep asthma under control. We build relationships with families and partner with them closely, providing consistent support,” explains Dr. Craven. “It’s incredibly rewarding and truly makes a difference.”
A Normal Life
Jaaire’s family made extreme efforts to help reduce his exposure to allergens. They gave away their family dog. Nancy quit smoking. And after finding mold hidden under a cabinet, they completely renovated their kitchen.
“Without extreme measures, we knew Jaaire was at risk for respiratory failure and death. Before this attack, I thought I knew everything about asthma. This proved us all wrong,” recalls Nancy.
As Jaaire’s response and exposure to allergens improved, Dr. Craven was able to space out Jaaire’s injections from every other week to once a month. Today, five years after the event, 15-year-old Jaaire still gets an antibody injection once every two months.
But he hasn’t been hospitalized since his attack and is back to living a normal life, even playing high school varsity baseball.
“Dr. Craven is an amazing individual and the program is so thorough,” said Nancy. “They literally saved his life.”