Asthma Allies Here To Help: Introducing Gerri Rivers
Gerri Rivers and Romelia Rodriguez Walters are your Asthma Allies! The two certified asthma educators are joining MyAsthmaCentral.com to share their expertise and answer your questions about asthma symptoms, asthma management, asthma medication and more!
In 1997, I was a wife, mother of two young children, a student, a phlebotomist (I drew blood), and an Emergency Medical Technician. The same week that I began to apply to medical schools, I was diagnosed with a severe latex allergy and asthma. I didn't know just how those diagnoses would affect my life. I thought asthma as a kid's disease. I was 27!
I had various environmental, food and medication allergies all of my life, but these were a bit different. These steered me away from my goal of medical school. I took multiple medications, some with undesirable side-effects. Trips to the emergency department became all too common. After my initial diagnosis, I was in intensive care about every 3 months! But when my son was diagnosed with the same conditions - latex allergy at a year old and asthma at four years old -- I decided to take control, refusing to allow allergies and asthma to run either of our lives.
I read all the information I could about allergies and asthma, asked lots of questions of my doctor and surfed the internet daily. I did much of that during my many prednisone-induced, sleepless nights.
Eventually, I was asked to talk to nurses and EMTs at conferences and seminars. Later, with the help of the American Latex Allergy Association, I organized a conference that specifically addressed latex allergy, food allergy and asthma.
I've been dedicated to asthma and allergy education for the last 11 years. In 2005, I became nationally certified as an Asthma Educator (AE-C®).
Many people are unfamiliar with the role of an AE-C®. It is similar to a Certified Diabetes Educator, which is more known. The National Asthma Educator Certification Board (NAECB) is the organization that provides the testing required for someone to become an AE-C®. It defines an AE-C® as "...an expert in teaching, educating, and counseling individuals with asthma and their families in the knowledge and skills necessary to minimize the impact of asthma on their quality of life." To become an AE-C®, a person must either be a health care professional or a lay person with 1,000 hours experience in conducting asthma-related education.
Many people ask me if I am a nurse or doctor. I am neither. But I am a lay person, certified AE-C® with over 1,000 hours of asthma education experience. I am an asthmatic, and a parent of two asthmatics. My mother, aunt and several cousins also have asthma. I know what it is like to care for others with asthma (as a health care professional and as a family member) and what it's like to be the patient.
I show patients and families how to use their inhalers and clean their nebulizers - I don't just tell them. I listen to their frustrations about medications and try to help them understand asthma and enjoy life and activities -- with controlled asthma.
I also help health care professionals help their patients. I remind them that people with asthma deserve to have their health needs addressed efficiently and effectively.
I love helping others through allergy and asthma education. This was the reason I teamed with my friend and asthma educator, Romelia Rodriguez-Walters, to create Asthma Allies, which we established as a non-profit in 2007 to better address the needs of patients, families, schools, childcare centers and health care professionals. Asthma Allies is a growing organization and significant asthma resource for New Mexico. We build coalitions, initiatives, school asthma education programs, and are currently preparing for the 2009 Camp Cough No Mas asthma camp for New Mexican children. We are ecstatic about this journey because a residential asthma camp has been absent from New Mexico for 10 years!
All my work has taken me full circle -- I am exploring the possibility of fulfilling my dream of becoming a physician!
I am extremely excited to begin this journey with The Health Central Network to share with you my personal and professional experiences and knowledge. I am committed to answering questions to the best of my knowledge and providing up-to-date resources and information. Whether you are a patient, family member, health care professional, or just someone who is looking for additional asthma information, I look forward to helping you meet your unique asthma education needs.