That Sunday in September 2012 started as a normal evening for Nicole Gyimah’s son, Isaiah, but it would quickly change the course of his life. After playing in the backyard of the family’s home in Somerset, New Jersey, with his older sisters Dylan and Jordan, the 16-month-old came inside to get ready for bed. But Nicole could tell that something wasn’t right.

“Isaiah started coughing, and then he was crying. But, I knew it wasn’t a normal cough or cry,” she remembers. “I knew I needed to get my baby to the hospital.”

Nicole didn’t think to call an ambulance. Loading her son into his car seat, she drove as fast as she could to the local hospital. There, she and Isaiah were quickly ushered to the pediatric section of the Emergency Department. As Isaiah struggled to breathe, his providers began talking to Nicole about intubation. It was then that for the first time she heard the word “asthma” to describe her son’s condition. That 10-day hospital stay kicked off a nearly annual ritual of asthma flare-ups so severe that Isaiah needed to be admitted to the hospital for multiple days each time. Despite the various medicines he had been prescribed for day-to-day maintenance and emergencies, Nicole and her husband Kwasi Gyimah Jr. struggled to keep Isaiah’s asthma in check.

“We were trying to do what his doctors were telling us to do, trying to do everything right, but it was tough,” she says. “It felt like it was us against the world. It felt very lonely.”

At 4 years old, Isaiah began seeing a new pulmonologist who made several helpful recommendations. When the family needed to move to Waldorf, Maryland, in the summer of 2016, the doctor made a recommendation at Isaiah’s final appointment that December: As soon as possible, he said, see the pulmonology team at Children’s National Health System. Before they had the chance to make an appointment at Children’s National, Isaiah had two more asthma attacks in early 2017, one in February and another in March. After being admitted to Children’s National both times, pulmonologists there began treating Isaiah regularly. They also referred the family to IMPACT DC, the award-winning asthma program directed by Stephen J. Teach, M.D., M.P.H., that aims to improve asthma care and outcomes for children in the District of Columbia.

Isaiah’s first visit to IMPACT DC Asthma Clinic was a game-changer, Nicole says. Providers there educated the family on asthma and helped them to recognize Isaiah’s triggers. They provided Isaiah with a new spacer—a device that aids in delivering inhaled asthma medicines—and showed Nicole the best way to administer Isaiah’s inhaler so that he’d receive the most benefit. They also created an asthma plan and looped in Isaiah’s doctors, school nurse and others who would be involved in his care.

Armed with that knowledge and team approach, Nicole and Kwasi made several changes that seem to be keeping Isaiah’s asthma in check. He’s now an active first-grader who plays basketball and indoor soccer, and he runs faster than most of his peers, Nicole says. They credit their strong Christian faith and their care team for Isaiah’s new-found health.

“We truly believe God has been with us through it all and is healing Isaiah,” Nicole says. “And, with Children’s and IMPACT DC, we have connected with other parents and providers, and we have a whole team helping to take care of Isaiah now. We don’t feel like we’re in this alone anymore.”

Patient Stories

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