”Catching A Break”
Armed at home with an inhaler, a humidifier and a nebulizer that delivers medication to the lungs in aerosol form, Jones’ son Derek James is mostly unhindered by his respiratory condition – and even plays football for Fort Worth’s Polytechnic High.
But last year, Derek’s asthma flared up at school. Such attacks would once typically trigger a call to paramedics and a trip to the emergency room.
In Derek’s case, however, a nurse at Forest Oak Middle School quickly treated him in her office with a nebulizer and a low dose of the asthma-fighting medication known as albuterol. Then she sent him back to class.
The nurse was able to respond quickly and effectively thanks to an innovative pilot program led by UNT Health Science Center called “Asthma 411.” It gives school nurses the equipment, training and medical clearance to treat students’ asthma attacks in the schools, keeping children from missing class, parents from missing work and reducing costly trips to emergency rooms.
“During the school day, the nurse is going to see Derek a lot more than I do,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t have known what to do without the albuterol and the nebulizer machine being right there.”
Such a program is essential in Fort Worth and other major metropolitan areas where the percentage of children who have asthma is roughly triple the national average. The program takes a community approach to address the problem and includes collaborative partners such as the Fort Worth Independent School District, Cook Children’s Medical Center, MedStar Mobile Healthcare and JPS Health Network.
“This project reinforces what many of us already know about our community,” said Andrew Crim, Executive Director of the Office of Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) at UNTHSC. “Fort Worth has a number of individuals willing to work together to make it a better place.”