by Jake Cohn

I almost died at birth. For more than a month I was in intensive care before coming home to live in Telluride, Colorado. As a result of the high elevation in Telluride, I was on oxygen 24/7 for the first few years of my life. I spent my first three birthdays in the hospital due to asthma complications.

What really helped me though was staying active as a child – my parents never stopped me from doing anything. I was sick a lot, but my parents tried to manage my asthma with a plan from National Jewish Health. National Jewish Health was a life saver because the doctors in Telluride were not asthma specialists; they were always reacting to my asthma issues rather than trying to prevent them. My childhood would probably have been easier if my doctor had known how to properly manage my asthma.

In my teenage years, I was not proactive in my asthma prevention. I kept thinking I would outgrow my asthma as so many people say they do, but I never did. Whenever I got sick I would get a chest infection and learned to deal with intense coughing in the weeks to follow. In 2007, I was hospitalized in Hawaii due to an asthma attack –this opened my eyes to how serious my asthma was, and I began to be more proactive in managing my asthma; however, I was still on high doses of prednisone at least once a month due to severe coughing.

Today I manage my asthma by a plan set out by my doctor at National Jewish Health. I still get chest infections whenever I get sick, and these can turn into weeks of coughing. But now I manage my asthma through preventative measures and take prednisone as little as possible. Today, I am extremely fortunate to travel the world and ski professionally. It’s crucial for me to manage my asthma and prevent attacks because if I am sick or coughing, the exercise and cold can only make it worse.

Just because you have asthma doesn’t mean you can’t ski, snowboard, or play sports. Asthma doesn’t need to hold you back from what you love doing. It helps a lot when your doctor has the right training to take care of people with asthma. With the correct plan and information provided by your doctor, you can live your life with minimal asthma episodes. Want proof? Look at me.

If the Asthma Toolkit Program had been around when I was a baby, my doctor might have had a better understanding of how to take care of patients with asthma, and I might have been able to be more active and stay out of the hospital. I expect that this program will help other kids with asthma to be able to stay out of the hospital and lead normal lives.