Last Thursday Asthma UK published a new report on severe asthma, and more specifically about the discrimination faced by many with severe asthma and their specific needs. The report is called Fighting for Breath and you can read it here. It's an important document because so little is understood by the general population about severe asthma, so anything that highlights the condition is a good thing. With this need for publicity in mind, Asthma UK put out a call for people with severe asthma to contact them if they'd be willing to help the cause. I responded to this call, was then asked to tell them a little more about my 'story', and consequently they phoned me, and asked if I'd be willing to speak to the media. They'd sent out a press release to various places around the country and in the north east they'd had responses of interested from BBC Look North (local TV news programme), BBC Radio Newcastle, and BBC Radio Teeside. At first I wasn't all that keen about doing TV as I'm so self-conscious about my weight, but I had to remind myself that the cause is the important thing, so I put my insecurities aside and agreed to do both the TV and radio programmes. Radio Teeside never got back to me, but I was on the 'Alfie and Charlie at Breakfast' show on BBC Radio Newcastle at 8.25am on Thursday, and on BBC Look North on the 6.30pm programme. I have to say that the Alfie and Charlie at Breakfast programme was rather early for me, so unbeknown to the listeners I did the phone interview lying in bed in my pyjamas. Tee hee hee. I think it went okay for the most part, although I kept losing my train of thought and at the end I kind of petered out, but I think I got over what I wanted to say ... mostly. Mind you, it would've been helpful if they'd kept to the questions they'd said they were going to ask me and had sent me on Wednesday. It was, however, helpful to think through all they asked in these questions, and I was able to incorporate some of my thoughts on these into answers to the questions they ended up asking me.
At 10.30am on Thursday the reporter/interviewer from BBC Look North came round. Joanne was lovely and helped me to relax and lose some of my nervousness. We started off with a chat about my asthma, how it effects me, experiences in hospital, how my daily life is effected, my need for carers, the rubbishness of the benefits system and their lack of understanding of severe asthma and my experience of that (I had an horrendous experience with the benefits system a few years ago). She then set up the camera, sat behind it and asked me some of the same questions again while the film was rolling. That was a bit weird, because my response then wasn't spontaneous so oddly wasn't as coherent as first time round. Overall it went okay though, and in the final cut they had some of what I said as voice over as they showed me around the house, because after we'd done the interview bit Joanne spent a while getting visual shots without sound. We went into my bedroom first and she filmed me opening my drawer of medicines by my bed, taking out the box of prednisolone and popping three of the tablets onto the bedside cabinet. Then she wanted a shot of me using my nebuliser, but as I'd already had my morning dose she was afraid that if I put any medication into it then I'd overdose (I thought this was quite amusing given how much salbutamol I have when I'm ill, and I was aptly having a fairly rubbish morning with my lungs too) so we didn't actually run the nebuliser - I just put the mask on and sat there looking at the machine ;o) After that, Joanne wanted some film of me using my wheelchair so I spent a while going in and out of the flat as she filmed from different angles. When she was behind me she saw the stickers I've put on the back of Taz (electric wheelchair), one of which says, 'Chaos. Panic. Disorder. My work here is done.' The other says, '0-60 in 15 minutes.' She liked them a lot, filmed them and they ended up on the telly, as did Zach (the cat) because she took a liking to him >^..^< Tee hee. When I was outside she wanted me to run my fingers through the fresh herbs and then pick some of the basil. She took a while filming this and I was a little anxious that I was going to end up with no basil plant left ;o) Thankfully there was plenty left, but I also had plenty to go with my tomatoes and mozzarella for lunch :o) So that was pretty much it, and an hour after Joanne had arrived she went as she had to have a snippet back for the lunchtime programme at 1.30pm, with the longer version ready for 6.30pm. It was awful seeing myself on telly, and watching it I couldn't really concentrate on what was being said, but I think it was okay...
While my carers were here on Thursday and I was in the bath I missed a call from a guy in the Look North news room, but he left a message and I got back to him this morning. He'd had a call from a company in Harrogate - EnviroVent - who'd seen me on the telly. They make air filter machines that are supposed to combat humidity, condensation, dampness, and ultimately dust mites, and they think that their products might help me, so they're offering to install one of their machines into my flat for free! Apparently it usually costs around £800!! This is an amazingly generous offer of them, and anything that has potential to help has to be tried, so I've jumped at the chance. Of course, EnviroVent want some publicity, which is likely foremost in their mind when offering this to me, but that's fine by me. So John from the BBC Look North news room got back in touch with EnviroVent after he'd spoken to me, and within half an hour I had a call from them to talk through it. As I live in a property owned by the council then we may have to get permission to have the machine installed, but since I don't know who to get in touch with then EnviroVent are contacting them on my behalf, and I'll get in touch with the council then if I need to, guided by EnviroVent on who I need to speak to. Apparently EnviroVent have put one of their machines to one side for me, and can fit it almost immediately when they get the go-ahead. The only delaying factor, after the engineer has been to see where would be best to have it, and any other products that might be helpful, is that Look North want to come and film the machine being installed so that they can do a follow-up item. I guess this is dependent upon it being helpful to me, but it could mean that I end up on the telly again, which isn't good for my insecurities, but is brilliant for publicity about severe asthma. Both EnviroVent and John from the news room have told me that the machines are endorsed by Asthma UK and have also had recommendation by some hospitals/NHS Trusts, so this definitely isn't a gimmick or untested. How exciting! Okay, it may not help me, but there's a chance that it might, and it's a very long time since there's been any suggestion of anything that might help.
I'll let you know what happens.