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Health & Wellness

Just Breathe


Asthma is one of the most common childhood chronic diseases. Management of this disease is the difference between life and death. Gracia Smith and Kenya Jeffers thought it was very important that children are empowered to manage their conditions.

Children are away from their parents for most of the day and it is important for them to be knowledgeable about their conditions and medications. Gracia, a pharmacist by profession, encountered many asthmatic patients and their parents over the years. After having to counsel them about their condition and the use of their medication, she realized that many parents did not fully understand the severity of the condition and the importance of medication use. She recalled an encounter she had with a patient and their parent. The child went to school in Sea Cows Bay and the parent worked in West End. For reasons unknown, the parent did not allow their child to go to school with their inhaler and thought that they could just bring it to the school if the child needed the medication. However, if the child ever had a serious asthma attack, by the time the parent got to the school, they may not meet a living child or the child may have suffered irreversible damage. This conversation always bothered Mrs. Smith. Asthmatic children need to be able to understand their condition and how to use their medication.

With passion for informing people abut asthma, Gracia and Kenya collaborated to create two books to aid children to understand asthma. While Gracia covered the content of the book, Kenya, a graphic designer, worked on the graphics. The team worked feverishly after work and during lunch hours over a period of 5 years to complete the books which feature a book for 3-5 year olds and another for children aged 6-11 year olds with age appropriate activities such as coloring, matching and connect the dots to help them understand their condition and its treatment. It also includes an asthma action plan that the child along with their parents and physician can come together to create. This plan would include a list the child’s medication and when it should be used. There is also a tool which indicates various stages of an attack so that the child can adequately communicate with those around them and be aware of when an attack is imminent or in progress. The books cover various topics such as triggers of an attack, how to properly use their asthma pump and spacer, and tips for living an active life with asthma.

They used a pilot group of various aged children in their lives such as Kenya’s nieces and nephews as well as Gracia’s grandchildren to see how well children would learn from the book and enjoy the activities. The children learned lots of information about asthma without even realizing. Now these children are empowered to share information about asthma and assist asthma patients if ever needed. These books teach children how to help themselves as well as classmates if they see them getting into trouble with asthma and to be able to share the knowledge they gained.

The books were officially launched in May 2019 with a ceremony at the D. Orlando Smith Hospital and were met with great reception. There were even doctors considering using them in their offices. These books are both entertaining and educational and can be used in doctors’ offices as well as preschools and anywhere in between. Currently, the books are being used in one local primary school as a part of their curriculum and in training workshops overseas.

You never know where you would be when you can help someone. You never know when this information might be vital to saving a life. A book that empowers you with knowledge is a book that we should read and we should have.

Gracia encourages child asthmatics that may be teased for using their inhaler to ignore the teasing because it is their life that is at risk. Walk with the inhaler so that you can apply the therapy when needed.

Kenya recalled growing and seeing her mother rush her brother to the hospital frequently due asthma attacks. At the time, she did not completely understand what was happening to her brother and wished she had a tool like this book to help her understand so that she could know how to help her brother. She says, for parents of asthmatics, listen to your physician, try to remember the triggers and the asthma plan. Encourage your child to take their medication as instructed to prevent any attacks. Allow your child to live an active and productive life and make sure to help your child to take their medication before they encounter triggers. Make sure you have a valid asthma inhaler especially around hurricane season.

They would like to see this book in more schools so that this could start an active discussion about asthma.  In turn, it would no longer be a condition that children are ashamed of or have to hide to administer medication.

They would like to thank God for His goodness, their family, Jo’dee Hodge, their model and her parents, Department of Culture for their assistance in the book launch and their coworkers for their support.

These books can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes and Nobles in electronic and paperback form. Locally, they can be purchased from Island Services or delivered by the Authors.

The ability to breathe is a gift. Wake up grateful each day for that gift. – Johnny Lung