Mother’s day has never been a quiet day for Regina Walker. The mum of five can usually be found volunteering on the rugby league fields of Mt Maunganui, rather than enjoying breakfast in bed.
But last year, the day turn a terrifying turn, when her son, Davis Herniman, suffered a dangerous asthma attack and was rushed from Tauranga Hospital to Auckland’s Starship Hospital on a ventilator.
Davis, 12, suffers from brittle asthma, which makes his condition life-threatening, as well as severe allergies. He was diagnosed with asthma was he was just three-years old, and suffered his first attack when he was seven.
On that occasion, Regina was forced to perform CPR on her son while on the way to the doctors, when his health took a sudden, and scary, turn.
“That was the worst moment of my life,” Regina remembers. ”It was terrifying. The colouring of his face changed, He passed out in the back of the van, and I had to stop and do CPR on him. We were so lucky we were just a couple of hundred meters away from the doctors surgery when it happened.”
Asthma is the cause of one out of every eight hospital stays in New Zealand, and Davis knows that from experience.
In 2015 alone, he was admitted to ICU seven times, and placed on a ventilator twice. It was, says Regina, the hardest year yet.
“We went through a hell of a time. It was full on. It was one of the worst years ever. Seeing him being ventilated for the first time last Mother’s Day was so hard.”
The mum and son are understandably close, with all they have been through. Their bond was rewarded in April, when they jointly received the Cody Forbes Award for Courage at the New Zealand Respiratory Awards.
Run by Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand, the pair were nominated by their nurse, Steph Parker, for their bravery and inspiring outlook on what could be a heartbreaking situation.
Steph singled out Regina especially for her dedication to Davis’ health and her courage during that very first asthma attack where she saved his life, and every one since.
What makes things even tougher for the tight-knit family are Davis’ triggers. Doctors have been unable to pinpoint exactly what causes his asthma attacks to occur, but Regina says it can be something as simple as a change in weather and temperature.
“He looks really good, but he picks things up quickly,” she says. “I think people underestimate just how bad asthma can get - and how fast it can happen.”
At the moment, Davis takes between six and eight pills each day, as well as monthly injections to help manage his condition.
Regina says, like most 12-year-old boys, there is a struggle to get him to remember to take them , but he knows just how bad his health can get if he forgets.
“I’m constantly at him to keep taking his medication,” she says. “I have to pull the mum card - and every other card - to make him remember!”
Despite all their struggles, Regina says Davis is still a normal kid who tries his best to keep up with his mates, despite missing out on months of school last year when he got sick.
“He’s such a cheeky guy, funny and talkative. He tries to do everything everyone else is doing, knowing that he can’t do most of the things the other kids can do.
“He’s starting to know his limits - and sometimes he pushes them.”
There’s a chance Davis could grow out of his asthma, like many kids do, but until then, Regina is on a mission to keep her family healthy through a healthy diet and exercise. And today, she is just thankful her son is still here to help celebrate Mother’s Day with her.
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