Yes, asthmatics can score a breathtaking victory vs. illness
CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - November 16, 2015 - 9:00am

As a child, I would often  struggle with my breathing, especially around this time of the year   when the “ber” months come around and my birthday is just around the proverbial corner. I had asthma, which I called my birthday illness. I had to sleep with my pillows propped up in bed. I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid I would stop breathing.

My mom had a worse case of asthma, I must have gotten mine from her. It was not until lately that I learned that asthma is considered a handicap or disability — serious asthma, that is. So, whenever I’m lining up in a crowded washroom, I’m tempted to use the disabled cubicle because I can always argue that I’m asthmatic and asthma is a disability.

Well, I got news for you. There are people who battled the odds vs. asthma and scored a breathtaking victory. Such as the asthmatic achievers, aged 30 years old and younger, who were recently honored by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) at its Search for the Winners Against Asthma (SWAA) launched last February.

 “We decided to target this particular age group because asthma is a common chronic disease of childhood, leading to reduced activity, school absences, ER visits, and hospitalizations, says Dr. Gio Barangan, GSK medical director. 

Dr. Baranger hastens to add, “It is also during this stage that young people are in the process of developing the necessary knowledge and skills that will enable them to achieve their goals in life, as such we want to let them know that asthma should not deter them from realizing their full potential.”

 Asthma certainly did not deter grand prizewinner Christian Lacza, 19, from becoming one of the 2014 Kabayan Ten Outstanding Public School Students and 2014 Ten Outstanding Youth Leaders of Navotas City.

Christian was also an awardee of the 2010 Gawad Huwarang Kabataan of the Antolin Oreta Sr. Foundation and Gawad Modelong Kabataan: Galing at Dangal ng Malabon of the Arnold Vicencio Foundation. He was likewise the youngest recipient of the Orator of the Year Award in Navotas National High School. 

“When I was young, my asthma attacks were so severe that my mother would have to bring me to the hospital almost weekly. This made me realize that if I cannot excel in physical activities, I have to discover and focus on my other strengths,” Christian recounts his bruising battle with asthma.

 A source of inspiration and strength for young people suffering from asthma, Christian adds, “Instead of letting asthma stop me, I stopped asthma from interfering with my life as I pushed myself as a holistic learner —  excelling in academics, student leadership, and in various competitions.” 

Sharing the stage at the awards rites with Christian were the runners-up in the youth category: 15-year-old student and dancer Christina Chua; taekwondo twins Andre Rafael and Anton Joachim Montero; consistent student scholar Kenneth Angelo Bagay; and taekwondo medalist Dave Andre Labaton.

Adjudged winner in the adult category was third year medical student Teesha Banta.  The 23-year-old student from St. Luke’s College of Medicine was a full scholar in her first two years of med school and graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines Los Baños with a degree in BS Biology major in Wildlife Biology. 

Teesha is a lifetime member of two international honor societies and is an active girl scout, having received two of the highest awards given by the organization — the Chief Girl Scout Medal and is one the 75 GSP National Young Awardees.

Teesha shares her story: “Asthma runs in our family, but symptoms of severe asthma began when I was in college, which, unfortunately, was also the time when I was so involved in my schoolwork and scouting. My mother, who is a doctor and also an asthmatic, helped me through most of my journey by taking care of me and reminding me to take my medicines. Actually, because of my asthma, I had to temporarily stop med school because bed rest was advised. But it did not stop me from taking a part-time job as a high school science teacher. Besides being a doctor, teaching was my second dream job.”

Teesha wants to specialize in pediatric pulmonology so she could treat asthmatic children. 

Her message to other asthmatics? “During our many asthma attacks, we may feel powerless and helpless. We do not have the strength that non-asthmatics have and it may feel like it is the end of our dreams, I had that feeling when I had to temporarily stop med school because of my asthma. Well, these are all lies. Our condition is but another challenge that adds more meaning to each of our achievements, an opportunity to push harder, aim higher, and be better persons and citizens of our country.  Perhaps we were given this condition because we have the ability to turn these ‘setbacks’ into ‘set-ups’ of better things to come. We can defeat asthma and can conquer our dreams!”

Full of dreams like Teesha were the other winners in the adult category: UP student Ianna Engaño, athlete, musician, artist, and social activist; Yasmin Versoza, firefighter and member of the Marikina City Fire Truck crew; Christianne de Vera, triathlete; and Yliah Nina Bosch, registered nurse working as an emergency nurse responder at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

 “A lot of asthma patients have accepted lifestyle restrictions resulting from uncontrolled asthma as the norm, assuming that frequent symptoms, exacerbations, and lifestyle limitations are an inevitable consequence of having asthma. With the Search for Winners Against Asthma campaign, we hope to encourage and inspire more young people to live their lives to the fullest and not let asthma prevent them from doing the things they love,” stresses Dr. Barangan, who also credits actress Kim Chiu and International Rock superstar Arnel Pineda for helping spread awareness on their campaign. 

Yes, Kim and Arnel are both asthmatics.

Now, that’s a refreshing breath of good news!

ACIRC ANDRE RAFAEL AND ANTON JOACHIM MONTERO ARNEL PINEDA ASTHMA ATILDE CHIEF GIRL SCOUT MEDAL CHRISTIAN LACZA CHRISTINA CHUA NBSP TEESHA WINNERS AGAINST ASTHMA
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