News & Events

Asthma program helps patients breathe well, live well

February 22, 2013

Helping people learn how to control their asthma is the goal of a new asthma education class at Backus. Asthma was highlighted as one of the region’s top health concerns by the 2010 health needs assesment.

Judith Macri, who attended the class in January, said she learned more about what happens to your lungs when you have an asthma attack.

“I never knew I had asthma until I developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Mrs. Macri said. “This class taught me a lot about triggers and how to control my asthma.”

Mrs. Macri was diagnosed in 2010 with COPD, but said she knew she had issues before that. She had noticed that she was wheezing in 2007 and thinks her asthma probably started developing then.

“Breathe Well, Live Well” is an American Lung Association curriculum taught by Ray Tarvin, Registered Respiratory Therapist, certified asthma educator. Mr. Tarvin, a member of the Respiratory Therapy Department at Backus, said the class includes information about different medications and therapies, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of asthma and helps people prepare for doctor visits with specific information.

“Hopefully this can help them get control of their asthma before it gets out of control,” he said.

Part of the goal, along with education, is to try to help people avoid trips to the emergency room for asthma attacks by helping them be proactive and hopefully minimize attacks by treating symptoms early on.

Asthma rates in Eastern Connecticut are above state and national averages — roughly 18% of local adults reported that they have had asthma at some point in their lifetimes. According to reports by parents, 17% of children have had asthma diagnoses in their lifetime and 74% of those still have the disease.

The next class, which will have three sessions, will be in April. The initial fee is $25, but if you attend all three classes, the fee is refunded. The sessions will be Mondays, April 1, 8 and 15.

Mrs. Macri, 62, of Scotland, said she thinks education is important so people can take responsibility to improve their quality of life. She said she learned about triggers, different medications and how to measure her lung capacity with an air flow meter.

“I would highly recommend this class, I have told other people they should go,” Mrs. Macri said. Mr. Tarvin said another participant ended up seeing a specialist and started a different medication, which helped her symptoms and reduced the number of asthma attacks she was having.

Mr. Tarvin became a certified asthma educator in 2012, one of 66 in the state. As a certified asthma educator, Mr. Tarvin has three main goals — to teach standardized asthma care to patient care departments at Backus; provide the community with a formal asthma education program; and help asthmatic patients avoid emergency room visits through proper training and medication use.

He said he has been visiting with inpatients if they have issues with asthma. The hospital is also working on a program to identify people who visit the emergency room with asthma issues, so Mr. Tarvin can contact them with further information as well.

Mr. Tarvin earned his degree in Respiratory Therapy from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. In addition to being certified in respiratory therapy and asthma education, he also holds a neonatal pediatric certification. Mr. Tarvin has worked in the Respiratory Therapy Department at Backus since Nov. 2004.