A young family from Wales has had their lives shattered after their son has been left brain damaged following an asthma attack.
The family of 11-year-old schoolboy Geraint Richards from Tondy, near Bridgend, have decided to speak out and warn others about the seriousness of the lung condition asthma in the same week it was reported that a high volume of asthma deaths could have been avoided.
The National Review of Asthma Deaths — the biggest single study looking into the circumstances involved with asthma deaths — found 1,250 asthma related deaths in 2012 where 800 of those could have been prevented with better monitoring from doctors, as well as patients taking the condition more serious and using their brown preventer inhalers.
Geraint fortunately survived his experience, but after suffering a near-fatal asthma attack during the short walk home from school on 31 January this year, his and his family’s lives have been left devastated and possibly changed forever.
After suffering the asthma attack, Geraint was rushed to Bridgend’s Princess of Wales Hospital where a team worked tirelessly for five hours to stabilise his condition and bring it under control. However, the schoolboy had a panic attack and later went into a cardiac arrest and it took 14 minutes for medics to revive him.
However, Geraint was struck with severe debilitating injuries from the lack of oxygen. During a cardiac arrest, blood supply to vital organs is prevented and if blood does not get to the brain, it results in severe neurological damage, as seen with Geraint. Since the traumatic ordeal in January, the youngster has had to spend three weeks in intensive care at the University Hospital of Wales, another week on the high dependency unit and until the present day he has been cared for at the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff.
His parents Chris and Julie say their son will have a long road ahead of rehabilitation and therapy, but they both have remained strong for Geraint, barely leaving his bedside in the last four months and are now facing up to the fact their son as they used to know him, may have gone forever.
Geraint’s father Chris, 44, said: “He has always suffered with asthma and it was under control. He was under a consultant and he was really pleased with him. In fact, the week before this happened we had discussed the possibility of him being discharged from his regular check-ups because we were worried about him missing school.
“The day it happened was just a normal day – he went to school. He rang my wife at about 1pm saying he felt a bit ill. She said she finished work at 2pm and, if he still felt ill, to call her and she would pick him up. She never heard from him, so presumed he was okay. But when school finished, he phoned to say he was feeling unwell, his chest was tight and that he’d run out of his inhaler. The school is only a short walk from our home, but by the time my wife got to him in the car, he was practically sat on the floor struggling to breathe. She knew straight away it was bad, so she took him to the nearby surgery where she works.”
Geraint was initially treated with a nebuliser, but this failed to have much effect and he was rushed to hospital in Bridgend.
His father says: “They tried back-to-back nebulisers and an injection in to the vein, but nothing worked.”
It got to 11.30pm with no signs of improvement and an intensive care team transferred Geraint to Cardiff. It is here he went into cardiac arrest and suffered the life-changing injuries.
“He’s communicating by blinking and making noises, but we hope that one day he will get his speech back. The only way I can explain it is that he’s the same boy with the same memories and sense of humour, but he’s trapped in a body that he can’t move and he can’t talk.”
Mr Richards added: “It’s totally turned our lives upside down. Our daughter’s been absolutely fantastic and is trying to be so strong, but we don’t have any quality time with her. The worst bit is that it’s so hard to believe that in this day and age that asthma can be so devastating. Geraint was just a normal boy who loved his sport, Xbox and fishing. But then he was so close to dying. In fact, he was clinically dead for 14 minutes.”