Wheezy walks shine a light on asthma throughout October

Federal MP Patrick Gorman - Asthma WA mascot Puffer and Asthma WACEO Donna Rendell
Federal MP Patrick Gorman - Asthma WA mascot Puffer and Asthma WACEO Donna Rendell

Federal MP for Perth, Patrick Gorman, has a nagging concern that his three-year-old son is following in his footsteps – in a way his father doesn’t like.

Patrick has asthma and says while it is too early for a definite diagnosis, son Leo is exhibiting some signs that he might also have the lung condition.

He says the condition has come full circle as he worries about Leo.

“On a personal level that’s where my concerns now lie, potentially being the parent of a child with asthma,” Patrick says.

From his own perspective Patrick says he is familiar with what it is like to have asthma, having had the condition for as long as he can remember. 

He was a chronic asthmatic child, in and out of hospital quite a bit, missing primary school and then he wasn’t all that sporty at high school.

He says his parents broke speed limits at one time or another rushing him to Fremantle Hospital.

Asthma is something Patrick takes seriously, understanding how quickly it can flare up and turn into an asthma emergency. 

Because of his own experiences Patrick is supportive of Asthma WA and its efforts to ease the impact of the condition.

He’s throwing his weight behind a new initiative – the Wheezy Walk – running through October which aims to shine a light on asthma and the impact it has on the lives of more than 237,000 West Australians.

Patrick gets to do plenty of walking in his role as the Federal Member for Perth.

“As one of the younger, and therefore fitter, members of the Federal Parliament, my office is about as far away from the chamber as you can get, so on any regular parliamentary day I get to do a good 10 to 15,000 steps,” he says.

His challenge, to take 237,000 steps over four weeks shouldn’t be too tricky. It’s just over 8000 steps a day.

Asthma WA is encouraging people to raise vital funds while they talk more about asthma, its impact and how people with asthma can live well with confidence.

While the challenge is already under way, people can still jump on board, setting their own challenges, by sponsoring someone else or donating directly to the campaign.

Patrick says he’ll be keeping a watchful eye on the number of steps he takes.

“I don’t want to get to 25 October and then have to walk 20,000 steps a day to reach the target.”

With two small children, a three-year-old and a nine-month-old Patrick says he already does a fair bit of walking.

“We have the mega tractor pram and I push them around quite a bit through North Perth where we live and around Hyde Park, but when I can, I like to pick up the bike and go for a ride.”

It was only in high school that he got on top of his own asthma and was able to come off some of his medications, although he still carries his reliever, Ventolin, around with him.

There has been much progress in terms of treatment since Mr Gorman was a child, in part he says through the work of Asthma WA over many decades.

“The biggest impact is awareness both in terms of people knowing how to handle an asthma attack and for those with asthma, how to manage their condition.

“On the science side there are a lot more effective preventative medications now, which is fabulous.

“There are things we know about, how to manage particular triggers, but this is where Asthma WA comes in, there is always more that can be done and more to learn.”

Mr Gorman says that because of his asthma he missed out on some activities as a child.

“As a kid with asthma you can’t necessarily keep pace with other kids, but I went to a pretty hippy school in Fremantle, so I was lucky that bullying wasn’t a large part of the school experience, but it was more that sense of feeling like you are missing out on things.

“I guess that means we need to have inclusive activities, making sure that kids with asthma who might be having a bad day are included in a way that helps them manage it.”

Mr Gorman says people have become more aware of respiratory illness over the last 18 months with the global focus on the Covid-19 pandemic.

“That will be a lasting effect of the pandemic where people have a bit more understanding of respiratory illnesses and respiratory challenges, including asthma.”

Australia has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world and while there are so many people in the community living with the condition, there is still much misunderstood about it.

People wanting to support the Wheezy Walk can register online at www.asthmawa.org.au/wheezywalk.