Marisol Scanlon has lived with asthma her entire life. At day camp as a child, she always had special permission to avoid activities that might trigger an asthma attack. She recalls finding a lovely spot under a tree where she could pass the afternoon.
“I taught card games to all the kids. I probably taught a few people to gamble long before they were 18. For candy of course,” says Marisol.
Her haven is the swimming pool, where she can exercise without having to worry about overdoing it.
“I swim laps,” says Marisol. “It helps a lot with the asthma. You can build up the cardio to just the right level. It’s a good way to stay active and remain in a closed environment.”
As a young adult, Marisol moved to Vancouver, where the more temperate climate made her asthma much more manageable. She had fewer lung problems during those years, and believed the worst of her asthma might be behind her. But she was wrong.
When Marisol moved back to Montreal, the cold, dry winters and hot, humid summers—much different from weather on the West Coast—caused her asthma to flare up again. She was discouraged to find that she was using her inhaler multiple times per week to manage the symptoms. Breathing had suddenly become much more difficult.
“It’s like breathing through a straw. And that straw is flat and squished and you are trying to open it up,” says Marisol.
Fearing things would get worse, Marisol quickly found a family doctor, who referred her to the Montreal Chest Institute (MCI) at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). There she met Dr. Kevin Schwartzman and nurse Kathy Riches.
“Ever since then I have been seeing them every four months for the past eight years or so. They feel like an extended family—we are always connecting and trying to improve my health,” says Marisol.
The care at the MCI goes far beyond what most expect when visiting the hospital.
“It’s not just medications. The advice covers everything from the air purifiers to bed sheets to journaling to better understand how the weather affects me,” says Marisol.
With the help of the MCI, Marisol’s asthma is now under control.
“Dr. Schwartzman and Kathy have done an amazing job helping me stabilize my life so I don’t ever lose control of my asthma, and if things get worse I have an action plan,” she says.
Asthma is the third most common chronic disease in Canada, affecting over 3.8 million people. Specialized care centres like the MCI help ensure those living with asthma lead full, healthy lives. The MUHC Foundation recently launched its $10 million Dream Big. Breathe Easier campaign to invest in breathtaking research and breath-giving care to ensure patients with respiratory diseases from asthma to COPD to cystic fibrosis receive the specialized care they need.