Belfast Telegraph

Dad of tragic asthma teen Rachel Williamson bids to heighten awareness

Fatal attack: Rachel Williamson
Fatal attack: Rachel Williamson

By Jenna Gardiner

A father from Co Down who lost his daughter to a fatal asthma attack almost two years ago is launching a new awareness project in her memory.

Rachel Williamson from Portavogie was just 16 when she died in July 2017, just weeks after finishing her GCSE exams.

Her dad Simon will this week pilot his asthma awareness project, and says fighting to prevent other fatalities has kept him going since Rachel's death.

It will launch at Glastry College tomorrow evening, Rachel's old school, and will see Mr Williamson and a team of researchers screen a presentation aimed at children between the ages of 11 and 17 on the dangers of asthma, how to take inhalers correctly and the importance of regular check-ups.

When rolled out in schools across Northern Ireland in the next academic year, it will be the first time pupils and teachers in the UK have been directly educated on the potentially fatal dangers of asthma.

The bereaved father set up the Rachel Williamson Foundation in the wake of the teenager's death and was inspired to educate young people about asthma after he learned that no such resource and education plan exists, despite 36,000 children here living with the condition.

"This has all been for Rachel," he said. "I'm her voice, and this is her way of telling her story, talking about her condition, and trying to help others.

"I feel as if I have to do something to bring a positive from our tragedy and to keep Rachel's memory and her name out there. If someone tells me 'I'm a lot better, I'm a lot more aware because of Rachel', then that's my job done."

The short presentation was created in collaboration with Mike Shields, a professor of child health at Queen's University Belfast and consultant respiratory paediatrician at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. It will feature sporting stars such as former rugby player Andrew Trimble and Linfield forward Andrew Waterworth.

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