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Simple asthma action plan could be lifesaver, says Northern Ireland mum who lost husband Stephen Leyland in a 'bolt from the blue' attack

By Adrian Rutherford

A mum-of-three whose husband died from a sudden asthma attack believes his life might have been saved if he had been given basic care.

Stephen Leyland was just 33 when he collapsed suddenly at his home in Holywood, Co Down, last November.

His wife Laura tried desperately to save his life by giving CPR, but he tragically passed away.

Laura (33), a teacher who is mother to a two-year-old son Harry and nine-month-old twins Brody and Penny, is now campaigning for healthcare professionals to ensure they give asthma patients basic care.

She said: "I still can't believe that an asthma attack snatched away my wonderful husband and it has left me and the children devastated.

"Harry was almost two when he watched me fight to save his daddy's life. No child should have to go through that.

"Stephen had had asthma since childhood but it wasn't something either of us thought of as severe.

"There had been no big warning signs that this could happen.

"His asthma attack was a bolt from the blue that completely shattered our lives. That's why regular asthma reviews are so important and why I'm pushing for them."

Three people die from asthma every day in the UK and experts believe the majority of these deaths could have been prevented.

Today, a survey by the charity Asthma UK reveals that more than half of asthma sufferers don't have a written asthma action plan.

This should include all the information that someone with asthma needs to look after their condition, including what medicine they should take and what to do if they have an attack.

Medical guidelines stipulate that everyone with asthma should have a plan as well as getting a yearly asthma review and an inhaler check.

But today's survey of more than 7,500 people with asthma in the UK found 56% - equivalent to around three million sufferers - didn't have such a plan.

Laura said her husband's death must not be in vain.

"If our story makes someone do something different and get an asthma action plan that could save their life, that would be a huge comfort to me," she added.

"I need to make sure Stephen's death wasn't for nothing."

Dr Andy Whittamore from Asthma UK commented: "Tragically, three people die from an asthma attack every day, leaving families devastated.

"But two-thirds of these deaths could have been prevented with basic asthma care, such as a written asthma action plan. It's therefore deeply troubling that almost three million people in the UK are not getting a written asthma action plan.

"Many GPs only get a few minutes every year with their asthma patients.

"Because asthma is such a variable and unpredictable condition it is crucial that patients know what to do for the rest of the year.

"A written asthma action plan is such a simple way to help people with the condition know that they are doing the right things to stay well, but more importantly what to do when their asthma starts to cause problems and how to prevent and treat life-threatening asthma attacks."

Dr Whittamore urged everyone with asthma to discuss and write up an asthma action plan with their GP or asthma nurse, saying it could save their life.

"We'd encourage people to take a photo of their plan on their phone so they have it everywhere they go, and share it with friends so they know how to help you if you have an attack," he added.

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