• 70°

Asthma Safari proves

fun, informative

By JAINE TREADWELL

Features Editor

Oct. 28, 1999, 11 PM

Going on safari is an exciting prospect for any student but when actually "going on safari" gives students reason to be glad they have asthma, the trip has been more than worthwhile.

More than 100 students from the elementary schools in Pike County were on Asthma Safari at the Family Life Center Friday and it was an experience they will long remember.

"One of the cutest things I heard was from one little boy who said he was glad he has asthma so he could go on the safari and learn all the things he learned," said Terry Watkins, education outreach coordinator for Edge Regional Medical Center and Charles Henderson Child Health Center. "I believe every child who attended benefited and I know they all had a good time."

Watkins said the planning for the safari started six months ago and the idea was prompted by Patricia Block, pediatrician at CHCHC.

"Dr. Block has been concerned about the critical increase in asthma in young children," Watkins said. "Twenty-eight percent of all local hospital admissions for school-age children are related to asthma and we have 500 school-age children in our area who have been diagnosed with asthma. So, there is reason for concern."

An initiative to address asthma and the problems associated with it was started by the Pike County Chapter of the American Lung Association two years ago.

Educational programs, targeting grades two through five, were set up in the local schools were drew praise from educators and parents.

As a result of the success of the programs and the interest spurred by them, supporters of the programs began to envision having an event that would be both fun and educational.

An Asthma Safari was planned with the purpose of bringing together the students with asthma so they could learn more about peak flow meters, taking medication and triggers in a fun setting.

About 50 volunteers assisted with setting up the safari and with the "trip."

"Stages were set up and puppets were teaching assistants that made learning entertaining and fun," Watkins said. "The children learned about peak flow meters and how to use them. Peak flow meters are gadgets that help young children with a limited amount of knowledge of information know when they need help or when they are in a safe range by color registration."

The students also learned about the importance of their medication and about what triggers and aggravates asthma and prompts attacks.

"The Asthma Safari was a great success in that the children came away feeling more comfortable in dealing with asthma," Watkins said. "They also realized that there are many other children who have asthma and that they are not alone in having to deal with it. Knowing that, makes it better somehow."

Watkins said the Asthma Safari was the cooperative effort of many and she expressed appreciation to Dr. Patricia Block, Pat Deichmann, Dr. Phylecya Cheatum, the Troy Charity League, TSU sororities, Chi Omega and Alpha Gamma Delta, WTBF and school nurses Betty Vance and Sarah Black.

"We want to also thank the art students at Charles Henderson Middle School and Pike County and Charles Henderson high schools who designed and painted the scenery that made the safari seem real," Watkins said. "And, the Troy Housing Authority was so gracious in closing its Family Life Center to other activities so we could have the safari there. We want to thank them and Taylor Barbaree for their assistance."

Others Watkins recognized for their contributions were ERMC, CHCHC, Pike County Extension Office, Harris Tire, Hendricks Homecenter, Sikorsky Support Services, UCB Pharma, Rhone-Poulene Rorer, Forest Primary Care, Schering Key Pharmaceutical, Muro Pharmaceutical, Astra Pharmaceutical and Glaxo.

"We appreciate the involvement and support of our community," Watkins said. "They made the Asthma Safari a wonderful, exciting ‘trip’ for these children and we thank them all."