Stacey McNeilly
ACMA Member

“My mom remembers my first breathing issue when I was 6 months old. She was travelling alone with me and I had an awful chest cold. Turns out I had pneumonia and at one point, they were afraid they would lose me. From then on, every time I caught a cold, it would go straight to my chest and linger with a horrible cough, wheezing, and difficulties breathing. They were pretty sure I had asthma, but back 40 plus years ago living in the small town of Revelstoke, there wasn’t a test to officially diagnose asthma. I frequented our family doctor, I tried many different puffers, and had countless admissions to the hospital. I vividly remember one nurse in emergency asking my mom why I was forcing myself to have an asthma attack this time. Why did I want attention? After that I would often hesitate to tell my parents I was having an asthma attack. I would lie in bed wheezing and coughing. Eventually my mom would hear my cough and drag me into emergency. I was tired of the medical staff assuming I was bringing this upon myself.”

“Throughout elementary school, I had many notes from my mom to sit out physical education. ‘Please excuse Stacey from gym class today’. Why? Because I had asthma and it was not well controlled. My triggers were allergies (no one told us to consider getting rid of the cat, never mind off of my bed!), colds, exercise, strong odours and fumes, cigarette smoke, and stress.”

“Grade 11, I was talking with the school counsellor about options for post-secondary education. I knew I wanted to pursue something in the health care field. Physiotherapy had a long wait, medicine was in Vancouver which was far away and scary, I knew I didn’t want to be a nurse. I saw a sign on the counsellor’s wall for the Respiratory Therapy program. The first thing the counsellor said was, ‘You can’t do that course Stacey, it’s too hard’. WELL…. Game on, no one was going to tell me I couldn’t do it! Yes, it was a challenging course, but I finished and accepted a position at BC Children’s hospital in Vancouver in 1993.

“I worked as an Acute Care Therapist for many years before starting my training to become a Certified Respiratory Educator. I am currently working at a community hospital in the position of Pulmonary Rehabilitation Coordinator. I coordinate the Asthma clinic and the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program, working closely with patients with lung disease. This spring I added Certified Tobacco Educator to my credentials. My passion has and still is my work in the Asthma Clinic. I see a large number of pediatric patients. I either work with them towards obtaining a diagnosis, they are in for education and follow up, or they had a recent exacerbation prompting a referral to the clinic. Despite all of the advances in our understanding and treatment of asthma, there are still many misconceptions, within the general public and the medical community. I recently saw a 14 year old with uncontrolled asthma, who was told by several doctors throughout the years the solution was to not be active, just don’t play sports. Try to pick artsy hobbies. Once we figured out what was going on, her parents felt awful she was not treated appropriately for all those years. As an asthmatic myself, I am the first to say to my patients, ‘I have asthma, I have to take puffers every day of my life, and yes, I live a very active and healthy life. I have exacerbations every year that require escalation of my treatment, but in-between, I do what I love to do, which for me is running and training for marathons’.”

“I feel for kids who have been told they should try not to be active or participate in sports. I don’t believe asthma should stop anyone from doing what you love. My goal is to continue to live my life, as healthy and active as I can, and to share my knowledge and experience of asthma with others.”