Another Look at Asthma Treatments

Breathing Easier

Dr. Mangos and Amanda

Beginning at age 2, Amanda Smith's life was riddled with trips to a hospital emergency room, restrictions on activities of all sorts and a near brush with death. Amanda has chronic, severe, persistent asthma.

Over the years, Amanda took three or four standard medications, such as inhalable bronchodilators and corticosteroids, oral corticosteroids and others for her asthma. In spite of these treatments, she continued to have exercise intolerance, constant wheezing and cough, and serious episodes of respiratory difficulty requiring frequent visits to emergency rooms.

"Doctors tried all kinds of things to help her," said Shirley S. Smith, Amanda's mother. "But even with all the drugs and all the preventive measures we took, Amanda was always wheezing and fighting congestion. Several times a year her asthma would get so bad we'd have to race her to the hospital emergency room.

"After one of those trips, when Amanda was 12, the hospital doctor said Amanda would have died if another hour had passed before she got medical attention," added Smith.

Times have changed for Amanda. At the Health Science Center Pediatric Pulmonary Center, the medical staff helped end the horrific asthma attacks for the 14-year-old honor student.

John A. Mangos, M.D., professor and Eloise Alexander Distinguished Chair of Pediatric Pulmonology, prescribed a new drug, montelucast, for Amanda. "This medication is in a tablet form that Amanda takes once a day, and it's completely safe for long-term use," said Dr. Mangos. "It has helped stabilize her condition, decrease the need for standard medications and practically eliminated visits to the emergency room.

"I just take one tablet before I go to bed, and two of my regular inhaled medications," said Amanda. "I haven't had to go to the emergency room at all since I've been taking the tablet.

"Now, I can play soccer, ride my bike and play volleyball. I'm also playing the clarinet. What I really love to do is go roller skating at the roller rink! I used to have to stay away from my dogs, too. But now they don't bother me at all."

"Amanda has even started recording her own peak flows everyday," Smith interjected. A
peak flow meter measures the rate at which the lungs expel air into a tube. The figure on the meter indicates how open the patient's airways are.

"She's come a long way. She feels so much better she wants to take responsibility for recording the peak flows and making sure she takes her medication," added Smith.

The future is bright for the ambitious eighth grader. "I've been accepted in the ‘law and research magnet' at Fox Tech," she said gleefully. The program at Fox Academic & Tech High School in San Antonio helps prepare students for careers in law.

What inspired Amanda to pick law for a career?

"Judge Judy's television show," she said. "I want to be just like her and judge a lot of cases!"

Arrow Testing Your Asthma IQ

Arrow Treating Adult Asthma

Arrow Another Look at Asthma Treatments

Arrow Return to index--Spring 1999