Any person who suffers from asthma has the potential for each attack to be life-threatening. The sudden and tragic demise of 12-year-old Ryan Gibbons is the very reminder of that.
Ryan was an energetic boy who loved motorbikes and hiking in the woods – but one fatal mistake from his school would soon take his life. In 2012, he experienced an asthma attack at school.
On October 9, 12-year-old Ryan Gibbons, 7th grade student went to school – just like any other day. Sadly, on this occasion he wouldn’t return home.
While he was outside playing soccer in school Ryan suffered an asthma attack but unable to reach for his rescue medication, as it had been taken off him and locked in the school office.
The young boy needed his inhaler to open his airways and allow him to breathe. However the school’s policy was to keep the inhalers locked in the principal’s office and spare inhalers were repeatedly confiscated from Ryan.
Ryan’s friends tried to carry him to the office during the attack, but the boys couldn’t get to the inhaler in time. That’s when Ryan passed out and was never was revived.
The tragedy occurred at the Elgin Country School in Ontario, Canada,which shocked the whole nation.
It became clear following the investigation that Ryan’s school didn’t allow him to keep his puffer with him, despite multiple efforts from his mother along with a doctor’s note.
According to his mother, Sandra Gibbons, Ryan would often bring an extra inhaler to school in order to bypass this rule.
Although asthma attacks aren’t always predictable, it can be dangerous to keep the inhaler locked in a room. The school continued to take Ryan’s extra inhaler away each time.
Ryan’s mom said that the school called her on several occasions, asking her to pick up an inhaler that Ryan had brought to school.
”You would give him an inhaler but then he would get caught with the inhaler and then it would be taken away,” Sandra Gibbons said.
”Then I’d get a phone call. So it was actually very frustrating. I didn’t understand why. I didn’t realize that the policy actually stated that the prescribed medication needed to be in the office.”
Since Ryan’s death, his mother has vowed to do whatever she could to prevent other families from experiencing the same.
Following the funeral, Sandra Gibbons began to petition the Ontario government to force school boards to adopt standardized asthma management plans. She urged all three parties to pass a private member’s bill from Progressive Conservative Jeff Yurek.
“When Ryan passed away, it was like losing everything that I lived for,” Gibbons told Allergic Living. “After burying my son, I knew that this was a preventable attack. To me, if people had appropriate training and knew what to look for when a child was in distress, he would be here today.”
Sandra hopes to change the laws that keep asthmatic children from being able to carry their life-saving devices. Soon her conscious struggle would generate results.
Ryan’s Law, Bill 135 has now passed into the legislature with all-party support.
The law forces schools to allow children to have their inhalers in their pocket or backpack with a doctor’s note.
“I’m definitely overwhelmed, very emotional, very happy it’s going to be implemented,” said Sandra Gibbons.
The Asthma Society also applauded the bill’s passage, with president Dr. Rob Oliphant saying “it is essential that children with asthma have ready access to potentially life-saving asthma medications while at school.”
Each state in the U.S. has laws that allow students to carry their asthma inhalers with them – at all times.
However, some kids continue to be denied access to these lifesaving medications during the school day. Many schools ban inhalers through their blanket anti-drug policies.
Fatal asthma is a significant problem with more than 10 Americans dying each day from asthma. Despite death rates having declined in the last decade, any asthma death is potentially preventable.
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