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"The most important thing is to not be discouraged"

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November 27, 2023

Tell us about yourself!

Hi, I'm Sha'Juan Smith! I'm 13 years old, I'm from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and I play basketball with my team. I go to Louisiana Key Academy with kids with dyslexia.

How long have you had asthma?

I have had asthma since I was two. Some challenges that I have are basically just with sports because of running a lot, you have to learn how to control your breathing, and, sometimes, when you first start, it can be tricky. It‘s kind of hard. You have to stand. You can't bend over. You can't do a lot of the same things to catch your breath. You have to hold your hands on top of your head to catch your breath if you have to. I would say that's one of the challenges I could face: catching my breath, or even running out of breath, things like that, or just holding it as I'm running or something. There’s a lot of challenges I face, but those are some of them.

Has breathing always been a challenge? Does it depend on the season or time of the year?

It depends, sometimes it depends on the season, but over time it has got easier, but sometimes I still struggle every now and then.

What do you do before you start sports?

My mom would have me do breathing exercises and stuff like that. For my exercises, I have to hold my breath for like five seconds or so, and then she lets me exhale it, but if I do it too fast, I gotta start over. Before I go out to PE, my doctor told me to take two puffs of my albuterol 10 minutes before I do hard activity. If I get short-winded or have pain in the chest, I have to sit out for maybe like 15 minutes. I have to get my breathing back on the path that it was supposed to be on. It is frustrating when it happens, especially when you're losing the game, but every time, I just learn how to just deal with it.

Has getting into a good routine been easy or hard?

When school started, I had to kind of reschedule a lot of stuff. I take my asthma pumps around 8 o'clock. So I get up, I take it, and I go to school and do what I have to do. Doing that was a little adjustment. Everything else has been smooth sailing.

Was messaging the care team in the program helpful?

It was. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was gonna be at first, but over time, it did get easier for me. At first, the thought of me recording myself kinda makes me giggle, but it's not bad.

How would you explain Scene's program to someone who hasn't heard about it?

They have good staff and members. They really do care about you and like they want to make sure you're on the right track for years, like to make sure your life is better for you to live longer.

Was there anything the care team said that was funny or memorable?

I would say Chrystal and Ashleigh. Those two, they are kind and they are pretty funny to me. 

Any advice you would give someone with asthma?

If you don't have a routine and you go into an asthma attack, it doesn't matter if it's a child or an adult, let someone know because that could save your life. Also, don't get discouraged. No matter how hard it gets, how tough it gets, just don't be discouraged. I would tell them don't give up. It will get easier over time. Just set a routine and just follow it day by day. It might get hard at times, but just keep going, and it'll get better. Just keep taking your medicine and stuff like that, and it'll get better.

Have you ever pushed yourself too far with sports?

When I was in basketball practice one time, I was just running, and I just overworked myself, and I just felt that pain in my chest. I was like, I just gotta stop because if I don't, it's possible that I will have an asthma attack. So I just wanted to stop it there. Catch it before it gets too late. Asthma attacks hurt, because it is like pain in the chest area. Your chest just gets tight, you can't really breathe how you would normally breathe. It basically ruins everything.

Sha Juan's mom responds in the rest of the interview.

Well, with her, she does get chest pains, and you can tell, the color of her skin changes a little. And she coughs. She coughs real, continually coughing. You might think that she has, like, an infection. But it doesn’t sound the same. It's a funny, funny cough that she does. And that's how we know if she's going straight into a terrible asthma attack. It's scary when she's sleeping. When she had one, she didn't cough a lot, and we had to try to wake her up. Now, 95 percent of the time, she does get up, and we sit her up in the bed And let her try to catch her breath because like she is choking In the sleep, and once she sits up and tries to gasp her breath together. Then we just go straight in and give her a treatment. 

We used to think when she inhaled and she heard the little whistle, that means she was getting it in. But we have now learned that we shouldn't hear the whistle from both the care team and her doctor. We are both getting educated so it's good for me and her.

What signs do you look for with asthma attacks? 

Sometimes her eyes get real glossy, and once I notice she's patting on her head, and her eyes are glossy, and I'm like, okay, I know she's supposed to have an asthma attack, and she needs her treatment. So, once it gets to that point, I'd be like, come on, it's time to go. We can't play around. 

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