Olympic hero Laura Trott speaks on her fight against asthma
22nd February 2013
[caption id="attachment_2858" align="alignleft" width="184"]Laura Trott By Richard Gillin from St Albans, UK (Laura Trott Uploaded by BaldBoris) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]For those who have already read the extensive article Medical Specialists Pharmacy ran, discussing living with asthma and listing some of the many celebrities with asthma, it could prove surprising and at the same time inspirational to learn that the lung condition can be properly managed and be an obstacle in achieving your dreams. If some of these aspirations happen to be of a sporting nature, you could be forgiven for thinking that a respiratory condition such as asthma that causes difficulty, wheezing, and coughing—can be an impossible hindrance In fact, exercise is one of many triggers for asthma, but professional sportsman and asthmatics such as David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Paula Radcliffe and Rebecca Adlington have demonstrated that it is still possible to succeed. Added to that list is double Olympic gold medallist Laura Trott, who at a mere 20 years of age, won gold medals in both the Team Pursuit and Omnium events at the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. This week, Laura gave a detailed and moving account into her asthma diagnosis and how she has managed to not only cope, but fight her way to Olympic gold - before the age of 21! In addition, she is currently giving her support to the ‘big up your chest’ campaign – Asthma UK’s online resource for asthma sufferers aged between 16 and 25. She says: “Although I was born early by caesarean, when I arrived in the world, everything seemed fine. But when I didn’t start crying, the doctors quickly realised that something wasn’t quite right. I wasn’t breathing and I was making this croaking sound. No air was getting through so they rushed me to intensive care before Mum even had a chance to hold me. They pulled my dad aside and told him that I’d been born with a collapsed lung and that they needed to operate to save my life. I went into the operating theatre immediately and they inserted a tube underneath my left underarm – you can still see the zigzag scar today – which inflated the lung that wasn’t working back up to a safer level. Once this had happened, I remained in intensive care for four weeks and after a total of six weeks I was allowed home. But from the age of two I developed this perpetual cold. I literally had a chest infection for four years, a permanent wheeze on my chest. But asthma can’t be officially diagnosed until a child is six. By that point I was at junior school and doing PE but I was always becoming very easily out of breath. So I was taken for this test where my breath was measured on a ventilator before and after running down the street for four minutes. Asthma was finally confirmed and from then on I had to use an inhaler. The first one I had was this enormous great plastic thing, which I had to lug around in my rucksack every day. I had to take two puffs in the morning, two at lunchtime and two in the evening and I thought it was the most annoying thing in the world. But after a couple of weeks, I got used to it and gradually realised that asthma wasn’t such a big deal and I certainly didn’t let it get in the way of me doing sport. Until the age of about 12, I’d always preferred trampolining to cycling but then one day when I was learning how to do a double back somersault I passed out in the air and came down like a sack of potatoes. My coach was standing underneath me thinking, ‘Oh my God, I need to catch a dead body weight here’. I’d got so dehydrated that I had passed out! Back home I passed out again, narrowly missing hitting my head on the fireplace. I had loads of tests done afterwards and ultimately they told me that I would have to quit trampolining because it was just too dangerous for me. So, despite the asthma, I threw myself into cycling, which I’d started at the same time my mum had decided she’d wanted to lose weight – she lost five stone in 18 months! Seeing her determination, I desperately wanted to follow in her footsteps. And if I always had my inhaler with me, my asthma wasn’t really an issue. That said, the two occasions when I have had a full-on asthma attack – both in the same week when I was 17 and had just finished my A levels – were terrifying. I was lying on a sofa round at one of my friend’s houses and suddenly there was just no air coming through to my lungs. I was trying to take deep breaths but I just couldn’t breathe and my chest was absolutely killing me. I was gasping for air and I panicked, it felt like I was going to suffocate. I remember crying until my friend got my inhaler and then two or three minutes later I was back to normal again. It happened again the week after that, but it hasn’t happened since. I’ve heard stories of some people having attacks each week so I’m always extra careful to have my inhaler with me. And apart from suffering ‘pursuiter’s cough’ more painfully than others, which all elite cyclists get after a really full-on race, I don’t let it affect my performance. What is still a problem, although not quite as serious as it used to be, is my acid reflux. I know, I sound like a walking health disaster but basically the acid levels in my stomach are too high so if you imagine your tummy’s like a balloon full of food, after a particularly strenuous exertion like a pursuit, or the Omnium event at the Olympics, the acid in my stomach rises and there’s nowhere for the food to go except out. I regularly vomit after races and if I’m not sick I can taste the rank bile in my mouth. I take tablets to reduce the acid levels, which help a bit, but you can’t take them continually so it’s an on-going issue…Some people might look at the fact they’ve got asthma and acid reflux and let it get in the way of what they want to do, but you can’t have everything, can you? And at least I’ve got fast legs! It does seem crazy what’s happened. I had such a bad start; I reckon I deserved a break somewhere. I never thought I’d be winning gold medals though. After my taste of success at the London Olympics, there’s no chance that I’m going to let asthma get in my way. I’ve had it for 18 years so I’m certainly not going to let it affect me now, no way.”