My name is Shakeela Riaz. I was first diagnosed with asthma at the age of 26. 

Over time my asthma became worse. Every smell would exacerbate my asthma including perfumes, cleaning sprays, cigarette smoke, paints and so on. I would need antibiotics and steroids. 

It came to a point in 2009 that I was receiving the maximum treatment for my asthma, but it was not relieving my asthma symptoms.  I was struggling so much that walking a few steps would make me breathless. 

Referral

I was then referred to secondary care by my GP practice. I was on the waiting list for almost four years before I saw a respiratory consultant. Once I was seen, the respiratory team changed my inhalers numerous times over two years and prescribed me further tablets to help my asthma symptoms. 

But I still felt no relief. 

I was sent for further scans and tests to rule out chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and other lung conditions. A blood test revealed an extremely high eosinophil count. Eosinophils are linked to inflammation. People with severe asthma sometimes have high levels of eosinophils in the blood and it was at this stage I was diagnosed with severe asthma. 

My consultant was reluctant to start me on biological treatment. These are specialist treatments reserved for people with severe asthma who continue to experience asthma attacks despite taking the usual treatments. They must be prescribed by a specialist.

Eventually, on one occasion when I went to see my consultant I got the impression that he believed my asthma was not as bad as I described. That was until a test that measures lung inflammation showed extremely high inflammation in my lungs. At that point my consultant was eager to commence biological treatment. 

Life changing

This treatment changed my life, until I got COVID-19 and it stopped being effective. My treatment was stopped without any notice.  I was offered a new biological treatment but this gave me terrible side effects so was stopped. 

I am currently waiting for a new biological treatment to be started. I have not received any biologicals for almost two years now. My asthma is poorly controlled and I have been in numerous courses of steroids and antibiotics.

Waiting

I believe the NHS waiting and treatment times are bad enough, but they seem to be getting worse. The justification of staff shortages and funding is a constant explanation for the increased waiting times.

The Government needs to do more for patients with lung disease. With the growing population of people suffering from lung conditions, it is surprising that more has not been invested in this sector. 

It is very disappointing that almost 10 years ago, I was told there is only one respiratory department with one specialist consultant in my area and the strains they were experiencing were resulting in a longer waiting list and waiting times. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then.

In fact, things are worse and will get even more difficult for patients, if the Government does not invest more in respiratory care.

If you missed our webinar, The Untold Patient Stories: Shedding light on the realities of life with a long-term condition, you can watch a recording online to hear about other patients' experiences of long-term health conditions and what changes they would like to see in how they are cared for.