Donna Matlach struggled with asthma for years, but it wasn’t until she noticed how much it was interfering with simple, everyday tasks that she realized she needed to do something about it. That’s why the mother of four became a patient advocate for people with severe asthma. “I noticed that I started getting more winded taking walks and had trouble laughing at my family’s jokes,” said Matlach, a ballroom dancer and grandmother of 11. “Each year, my asthma symptoms seemed to be getting worse. My moment of truth — the asthma Aha! moment that prompted me to take action — was when I got breathless bending down to tie my shoes. That’s when I realized, this is enough, it’s time to find out what’s really going on. This isn’t just asthma.”
She was determined to find out why her symptoms weren’t getting better while taking the usual asthma medications. At the worst state of her asthma condition, she found herself relying more and more on rescue inhalers to breathe. Matlach also traveled across the country and saw dozens of specialists in search of someone who could provide answers.
After countless visits and tests, Matlach finally had an answer. She was diagnosed with eosinophilic asthma, a form of severe asthma linked to eosinophils, a type of white blood cell.
“Daunting as it sounded, I was glad to have a diagnosis. You can’t give up and you need to try everything to find answers. I was relieved when I finally got my asthma better controlled,” Matlach said. “I encourage others to talk with their doctors to find out what treatment plan is the right one for them.”
Matlach’s journey with severe asthma continued long after finding her own treatment plan. She became passionate about educating more people about the condition. Matlach went on to establish the Severe Asthma Foundation, a nonprofit organization built to bring to light the prevalence of severe asthma and to help educate patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and advocates.
Stories like this are not uncommon. Asthma affects more than 20 million people in the U.S. and up to 10 percent of them have a severe form. Almost 50 percent of people who have severe asthma have an increase of eosinophils in their lungs, which can cause more frequent asthma attacks.
Signs of severe asthma may include:
1) You have symptoms that cause wake-ups at night and interfere with your daily activities
2) You’ve experienced two or more asthma attacks in a year
3) You’ve made one or more trips to urgent care, the emergency room or a hospital
If someone has had an “asthma Aha!” moment, they can take action, visit asthma.com, download the asthma e-guide to track their asthma, gain better control and have a more meaningful conversation with their doctor.
“Getting the right treatment at the right time for severe asthma is important because repeated asthma flare-ups and inflammation caused by long-term uncontrolled asthma may lead to lung damage,” said Dr. David Slade, M.D., a national asthma expert, pulmonologist and GSK Medical Affairs Lead on Asthma.