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Faisil

Age at interview: 33
Age at diagnosis: 3
Brief Outline: Faisil, age 33, was diagnosed with asthma at age 3. He is British Pakistani, single and works as a civil servant. Faisil’s childhood and teenage years were difficult because having the condition sometimes set him apart from the other boys, particularly because he was unable to participate in sports. As an adult he has become more accepting of the condition and is able to self -manage his symptoms for most of the time, but there are aspects of having asthma that continue to impact negatively on his life.

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Faisil had breathing problems from the time he was born, but wasn’t diagnosed with asthma until the age of three. He had regular asthma attacks as a young child and remembers being in and out of hospital and being taken to the emergency department sometimes. This would involve staying in hospital for a few days until his condition stabilised, and he remembers having steroid injections and courses of tablets frequently during these times. He remembers that as a child he often had a cold and felt wheezy.

His asthma was more stable during secondary school years, but he remembers feeling annoyed that he had asthma as it frequently stopped him from being able to run about and have fun with his friends. Sometimes he felt that he wasn’t always seen as a ‘real boy’ because he couldn’t participate in sports and because sport is such a big thing for children he often felt like an outsider and that he didn’t fit in. During his early teenage years things became a little more stable and he noticed the symptoms less at that time, but during his final year at secondary school when his medication was changed to adult strength dosage, his asthma became very bad for a time and it was difficult to keep the symptoms under control. He recalls trying several different inhalers before eventually finding something which worked effectively. However the disruption at this time affected his performance at A level exams because he had missed some school, and wasn’t feeling well enough to work to his full potential. After this, it became an issue when he started looking for a job because he found himself having to explain his poor examination results. Even now as an adult in his 30’s he finds that stating that you have asthma during the job application process can make life very difficult and can impact upon whether or not he would be offered a job, as he feels employers can be reluctant to take on an employee who might potentially need to take time off sick.

In his late 20’s his asthma became more unsettled once again. He wonders whether the fact that he moved to a big city may have exacerbated his asthma because of air pollution. His main triggers now seem to be related to weather conditions, so he finds when there is a change in weather conditions he can feel wheezy, and also summer weather and the high pollen count can tend to affect his breathing. He can also be affected by certain foods such as fizzy drinks, cold milk and ice cream so these are things he tries to avoid.

As a child and young person Faisil feels that he didn’t get as much advice and help about his asthma as some of his friends did. His GP surgery didn’t have an asthma clinic or nurse. However after he was 18 his practice took on an asthma nurse and through seeing her and being monitored more closely than had previously been the case he learned more about how to manage his symptoms. At this time he was given a peak flow meter to use to help indicate how much medication he should take and when to increase the dose. He uses a preventer inhaler - usually two puffs twice a day, and a reliever inhaler when he feels his chest tightening, but if his symptoms start to increase he increases the number of puffs he takes of the preventer inhaler to try to calm things down. Usually he can self manage the symptoms in this way, but sometimes if things do not improve he goes to A & E so that he can be treated with a nebuliser, especially in summer when the humidity is intense as this exacerbates his condition. Faisil describes some of the side effects that he has experienced from long term use of steroid based inhalers which include sore throat and ulcers, and also significant hair loss from the age of about 17 which he found upsetting as it undermined his self confidence as a young man. He also believes that the drugs he has taken may have had an effect on his growth when he was a child as he says he felt he was much smaller than the other boys of his age, and again, this had an effect on his self esteem and confidence when he was growing up. More recently he has been diagnosed with several other conditions including a fatty liver and metabolic syndrome, which can led to diabetes if not monitored. He believes that the medication he has taken over the years may be partly responsible for the deterioration in his health. He has begun taking a number herbal and natural supplements to try to help him to lose weight and slow down the progression of these other conditions.

Faisil’s experience of health professionals has been mixed. He found the traditional family GP he saw when he was younger was dismissive of asthma and did not seem to take it that seriously, whereas he feels that more recently the asthma nurse and younger GP who he now sees seem to have a greater knowledge about asthma and are more responsive to his needs. Faisil finds the internet helpful as a resource to help him find out more about new developments in asthma treatments and to try to find answers to some of the questions he feels the health professionals tend not to get involved with.
 

Faisil describes how asthma affected him as a child, and how it improved in his teens. More recently he has had problems again, which may be from living in a more polluted atmosphere.

Faisil describes how asthma affected him as a child, and how it improved in his teens. More recently he has had problems again, which may be from living in a more polluted atmosphere.

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As a child it was actually quite bad. I mean my Mum was, my Mum said that you were sort of looking at it was almost like a regular thing of asthma attacks. So I remember going to hospital quite a lot, and seeing a specialist there and bits of it in and out of A & E quite a bit. Emergency doctors being called out so up until I was about may be starting primary school it was almost a regular thing.

As I got older obviously it sort of gets better, up until I was about ten, I was quite sort of unsettled, so it was a lot of medication, a lot of trips to the doctors. After I was ten, sort of becoming a teenager things started to improve after that. I noticed the symptoms a lot less. I found it easier to do things like sports, which I struggled to do at primary school for example. Things seemed to be quite settled throughout most of my teens into my twenties and stuff. Then I sorted of noticed things getting a bit bad again after sort of about five or six years ago. I moved from [city] to [city] and I don’t know if it was the amount of pollution in the air or something, but it started becoming quite unsettled in the last couple of years again.

What was it like as a child having asthma? How did it feel for you?

I remember it being sort of annoying. Wheezing all the time. I can just remember always having a cold as well. And I think that’s one of the sort of, you’re prone to these things. So I was always having a cold or being wheezy all the time. Sort of annoying when you can’t run around with your friends and stuff. So sports wasn’t a great thing which… a little bit annoying because you sort of got a bit of stick for it when you were at school, you know, you can’t play sorts like the rest of the boys. So you go a bit of, you know, a real boy kind of thing, so that was a bit annoying that way.

How did you deal with that?
 

I tried for example, I couldn’t play football because I just couldn’t run, running especially as a child used to set my asthma of. It seems to as an adult it’s not such a big problem anymore. I tried finding other sports to do. One of the strangest ones was living in Scotland and not playing football and instead liking cricket, that was like the worst thing you could do [laughs]. So, you know, trying and finding a way round it.
 

Faisil finds that certain foods trigger his asthma and has tried to cut them from his diet to avoid getting symptoms.

Faisil finds that certain foods trigger his asthma and has tried to cut them from his diet to avoid getting symptoms.

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I find food is the odd one because that’s the one that seems most people, even my friends who are asthmatic, don’t seem to have that much of a problem with. The one they used to actually cause me a lot of problems as a child was fizzy drinks and I just seem to be the one person that has that problem, but that was enough to send me to A & E as a child up until I was about ten. If I drink say, if I drank a can of something every day for about a week, I will start getting symptoms. So I try and stay off it as much as I can, or just not, you know, basically don’t drink as much. So I’ve got avoid that. Certain foods do it, for example not having, ice cream for example in the winter, or anything that’s sort of frozen in the winter. I try and avoid that or it will trigger it off. A bit of a problem with milk. I still have a problem with that, especially cold milk and that, sort of seems to if I drink a lot of it that seems to set it off a bit as well.

Do you avoid them completely or would you kind of do it in moderation and see how it goes?

I did sort of cut out milk for a long time. But I think I ended up with a calcium deficiency, so and I think eventually, when I started it just bothered my stomach than my breathing. So then you’ve got that lactose free in the alternatives so I started using that more, because I started going basically with the calcium deficiencies and stuff. So it’s not as much of a problem.

But the rest for example, avoiding, yes, I mean I can avoid having frozen stuff because it always ends to be stuff that’s not good for you in the winter time, so I can sort of live without that. Fizzy drinks I find hard work, because I don’t drink alcohol and I do find that it tends to, I just seem to always have an unsettled stomach anyway for some reason. Fizzy drinks help that in one case but it causes the problem the other way, so it balance… I can be quite annoyed.
 

Faisil describes how his asthma symptoms have come and gone at different times of his life.

Faisil describes how his asthma symptoms have come and gone at different times of his life.

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As a child it was actually quite bad. I mean my Mum was, my Mum said that you were sort of looking at it was almost like a regular thing of asthma attacks. So I remember going to hospital quite a lot, and seeing a specialist there and bits of it in and out of A & E quite a bit. Emergency doctors being called out so up until I was about may be starting primary school it was almost a regular thing.

As I got older obviously it sort of gets better, up until I was about ten, I was quite sort of unsettled, so it was a lot of medication, a lot of trips to the doctors. After I was ten, sort of becoming a teenager things started to improve after that. I noticed the symptoms a lot less. I found it easier to do things like sports, which I struggled to do at primary school for example. Things seemed to be quite settled throughout most of my teens into my twenties and stuff. Then I sorted of noticed things getting a bit bad again after sort of about five or six years ago. I moved from [city] to [city] and I don’t know if it was the amount of pollution in the air or something, but it started becoming quite unsettled in the last couple of years again.
 

Faisil says employers can be wary about taking on somebody with a condition like asthma because they might think ‘this guy’s going to be sick all the time, so we won’t bother’. [TEXT ONLY]

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Faisil says employers can be wary about taking on somebody with a condition like asthma because they might think ‘this guy’s going to be sick all the time, so we won’t bother’. [TEXT ONLY]

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But I found a problem from that when I tried to apply for jobs straight after. “Well why did you fail your exams?” “Because of my asthma.” “Do you still have it?” “Yes.” And then it would be sort of that of, well this guy’s going to be sick all the time, so we won’t bother. You sort of get things like that. So it had, you know, it still does have an impact.

Because I mean if I apply for a job even now. I mean I’m 33 now. Because of the way the economy is for example now they want to do, just to sort of separate people out because they’ve got so many applicants. They bring up, “What did you do in school?” And stuff, and you think, well why would you care about 15 years ago? Something that surely it doesn’t matter anymore?. And they will because they’ve just got so many unemployed people and then they start bringing it up again, and so it’s well great, but I will go through it again now. So it becomes irritating again.

And do you feel that you’d rather not have to say that you’ve got it? How do you play that? 

Just try to play it down. I just say it and then just try and say, “Well can I try and play it down.” But I’ve noticed that it’s a lot of major organisations will make you go for a medical assessment now before they’ll even give you job. You get a big questionnaire and in usually my case, I think if you tick yes to anything, if they’re going to offer you a job you go through and see one of their doctors, so, and they request your records anyway. And even if I said, “Well it happened a long time ago.” The records are going to show that I’ve had, all the problems I’ve seen in the last couple of years, which might give them cause for concern. So the problem of sick leave seems to be the big thing with employers these days. So yes, it does get a bit annoying that way.
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