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Portrait of Gabriel, a young boy who lives with asthma

Meet Gabriel

Gabriel Roosevelt-Jackman was a tiny three-week-old baby when he made his first ambulance trip to the hospital emergency department.

Parents Daniel and Ann thought it was a bad cold but Gabriel had a serious respiratory infection — and severe allergic asthma. Now a teenager, Gabriel’s asthma is so difficult to control that it often prevents him from participating in his favourite sports – basketball, soccer and football – something that doesn’t usually happen to kids with less severe asthma. Here are some of the lessons this high school student has learned in the classroom of asthma.

1. Watch out for pets and other peeves.

Gabriel never knows what may trigger one of his frequent asthma attacks. It could be a bit of pet hair, a blast of chilly weather, a whiff of perfume, or just a good old belly laugh. Lots of uncertainty about when the next asthma flare-up might occur.

2. Just accept that asthma sucks.

Having grown up with days off school, nights in the ER, inhalers, and constant fear, the teenager hopes for the day when a game of pick-up or band practice won’t pose a potential threat. “Sometimes, I really want to have the chance to grow out of it,” he says.

3. Get an education in medication.

For the Roosevelt-Jackman family, having two children with asthma means visits to the respiratory clinic at SickKids every two weeks for tests that measure how well the lungs are functioning. Gabriel also gets two injections because of the severity of his chronic asthma and other allergies. While his mother worries about Gabriel taking so much medication, she recognizes that there are no viable alternatives.

4. Become a weather beacon.

It’s essential to keep a close eye on the weather forecast. “When I go outside and it’s really hot, it will affect my breathing and then I’ll have to go to an emergency room,” Gabriel explains. Cold weather has the same effect.

5. Keep calm and carry on.

Through the years of treatment and visits to the clinic and the emergency department, the members of the Roosevelt-Jackman family have learned to cope, to support each other and to be happy. “Despite the challenges, we are blessed,” says Gabriel’s father Daniel.