Mother. South East London. 22.9.2016. (updated 13.8.2020).
“The final attack started no different to any others. She would have this cough, and sometimes she would cough, and then she would be able to control it, and then she’d be fine and go back to normal. Other times there would be a lack of oxygen and she would completely collapse, and technically she would die, she would go blue.
Every time she coughed I panicked. You didn’t know which way it was going to go. By listening to her, all her coughs sounded the same, but she knew. Whenever she was coughing she would go blue, look terrified, and then the moment it finished she just went back to normal as if nothing had happened. And yet there were other times when I would have to call an ambulance.
Looking back I don’t know how I could have maintained this. I never thought she would die, but I couldn’t see how it would be maintained, especially when she would collapse and I would have to resuscitate her. The question was, how many times can you resuscitate someone. I was resuscitating her constantly because she was out, and I would have to call an ambulance. I probably resuscitated her about 30 times. When you’re in that , it’s very difficult, it’s very stressful. But I never thought she would die. Maybe I was hoping for something that would control it. I think I was hoping, I was living in hope.
She was the one having the attacks. They were horrendous. She knew she wasn’t going to last. She said so. Even though she was only nine she didn’t have a fear of dying. I only heard her say it twice, but once was too much for me. I think about her not being here every day, but then I think about those attacks, and the lack of oxygen to her brain when she collapsed, how would she have dealt with it if she was put in a wheelchair or something?
When she would come round in intensive care, which was absolutely horrendous, because you never know how they are, they’ve got tubes all over them, and you never know how they are. First off, when they blink you’re just grateful they’re alive, and then bit by bit you think ‘what impact has it had on them’?
I remember her saying to me: "If you love me you’re going to have to let me go”, and I said, “never, absolutely never” and she would say “alright mum”.
So the final, final attack, we were both at home and she was struggling. I called an ambulance. It’s a very difficult thing to live with. I tell myself that it wouldn’t have been the last one, there would have been more. I could see she was going to have a seizure, and I had to explain to the twins what was about to happen as they’d never seen it before. I wasn’t worried as it happened so many times before and she had recovered. She didn’t recover. What was different about that one I’ll never know.
I know that on the night she died pollution levels were higher than normal. I know by her records that something was airborne. Airborne, but what? The doctors wrote on her records that it was ‘something airborne’ that triggered the attack. When she was alive we never really thought about that. Now we know a lot more about pollution."
Boy aged 13. South East London. 10.8.20.
"I got asthma when I was really young, like one years old. I basically got it right away. Right now I’m taking the Synacor, I think it’s a new kind of inhaler, so I’m taking that in the morning and at night.
I’ve been in hospital quite a few times because of my asthma, normally during the winter time. My asthma is quite bad then, probably because it’s quite cold. Going into hospital is quite scary because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Because all I knew really was that my asthma was quite bad and I had to go, and if you have to go to hospital it means like it’s quite serious, which is scary.
So it's the cold, but my hay fever can affect it as well, and my allergies. So with asthma it feels harder to breathe, like you need to take deeper breaths, and your chest feels quite tight. You can’t really run or anything. You have to sit and you can't really move around very much. When I was younger I panicked quite a lot.
Normally when it happens I’d be doing something like running around or doing sports or something, so I might have to stop and take my inhaler.
I think it’s been better during lockdown. I haven’t had to use my ventolin as much, my blue inhaler, and like I haven’t really been waking up much during the night either. I normally wake up coughing, and my sister or my mum will give me my inhaler. It hasn’t happened since quarantine.
I think that one of the things, like, during quarantine, a lot of the pollution levels went down. Because we’re right near the south circular, so there isn’t as much pollution, so my asthma is probably better because of that.
I think that they (the government) should get better cars because there are a lot of diesel cars and buses, so change them to be more environmentally friendly. Also plant more trees and stuff, because that could also help the air quality. Quite a few people in my class has it (asthma). I don’t think they have it as bad as me but like sometimes they can’t do sports and stuff as well.
If I had kids I would hope that London would be, like, much cleaner by then because, like, I’ve seen what the pollution’s done and I wouldn’t really want them to be growing up in a place like that so I would hope it would be a lot cleaner by then."
Interviews are ongoing.