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Feature story: Living with asthma

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17 August 2017

Maryrose Meadwell has been a patient at the Trust for many years, under the care of the asthma team. She recently took part in an asthma research study at the hospital with Dr Uruj Hoda, a research fellow. 

The study, which recently closed for recruitment, looked at the mechanisms behind exacerbation in severe asthma. The aim was to develop a better understanding of the nature and course of asthma exacerbation, with the hope that it will lead to earlier diagnosis and new potential treatment targets for exacerbations.

Maryrose is also a member of respiratory patient representatives group at the Trust, who review new and upcoming research proposals to ensure that the Trust is carrying out research that is important to patients.  

Maryrose writes about her experience of living with asthma, and how she became involved in research at the Trust.

Living with asthma 

by Maryrose Meadwell

I am in my 68th year as a chronic atopic asthmatic and have never let it hold me back.

Born with hereditary asthma (my grandfather had it), it became evident at 18 months old when I struggled to keep up with my brother’s pram on walks out. Breathing was a noisy, suffocating nuisance! Soon I was visiting the hospital in Bury St Edmunds where I was made to blow on feathers suspended on cotton threads and ping-pong balls down a couch; all in an attempt to get me to breathe out.

Treatment was sporadic in those days but I recall a large inhaler which became my “friend”. It could only be administered by an adult, and this meant painful anxious waits for its relief. This lasted well into my teens when Ventolin inhalers arrived. Oh, the bliss of self-administration at last!

At home in those early years we had lots of cats, chickens and geese. It was later discovered that I was highly allergic to these; cats in particular. It will be no surprise that I was often in hospital as an emergency admission.

Children’s parties were a challenge as were any large indoor gathering. The atmosphere, dogs, crowds; all could conspire to trigger my asthma. I would retire to the edge, observing, struggling to breathe, often deep in a book where I could lose myself.  

I was 13 when at Milford Hospital they put me on Prednisolone. It enabled me to follow my dream of becoming a ballet dancer, which I did, surviving the gruelling training and on to several ballet companies. It was a narrow life of daily class, rehearsal and performance, perpetually striving to keep up a high standard. I learned to cover up my proneness to attacks and bronchitis in my determination to keep working. Widening my experience with contemporary dance companies, musical theatre, choreography, plays and television, I worked in theatre for 15 years, alongside marrying and bringing up two wonderful children.

Throughout this time, I was watched over at St George’s hospital in Tooting where I was on inhaled steroids, Tiotropium and anti-histamine in addition to the Prednisolone.


I was eventually referred to the Royal Brompton Hospital under Professor Fan Chung and discovered the wonders of new approaches, new research, attitudes, and their interest in each individual. Above all else, it was the feeling of relief that here were people who understood me and my symptoms. There was a plan, aims and encouragement.  

It was whilst I was at Royal Brompton that I was approached to take  part in an exacerbation study with Dr Uruj Hoda, a research fellow, with the asthma team. Taking part in the study meant that I was closely monitored to better understand my asthma and to determine the triggers for exacerbation. Looking back at the treatments I received over the years it is clear that research has been crucial to the progress of how asthma is managed and treated.

The care and attention to detail I have experienced at the Brompton has been so heartening and helpful. I feel privileged to be involved in the development of treatments through research so that future generations are able to lead healthy lives and pursue their passions.

If you would like to find out more about how you can get involved in research, either as a participant or as a lay reviewer, please contact the research team. 

Royal Brompton

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London SW3 6NP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7352 8121