A youngster has had his life transformed after being diagnosed with asthma, thanks to a pioneering test.
Kieran Mears is now a keen dancer and actor at a community theatre group having got his condition under control after struggling to get the proper treatment.
The 11-year-old, of Battle Hill, was born with the heart condition aortic stenosis, which causes an irregular heartbeat and initially doctors put his breathing difficulties down to that.
But his mum Donna felt the problem was something else.
She said: “He was only a couple of months old when he started having breathing problems.
“We ended up in hospital multiple times. He’d be put on oxygen and steroids and be in for a week before being sent home again.
“We were told it was just a viral-induced wheeze, which I always argued against because I was sure it was asthma.
“His medication would be reduced and, within a few days, he would be ill again. We went through that cycle for four years.”
Donna, a former marine biologist, decided to tackle Kieran’s condition from a scientific stance.
“I kept a diary with the weather, the pollen count, what he was doing, his peak flow readings, showing he was fine for a period of time then, whenever his medication was dropped down, he was ill again,” she said. “I even drew graphs. I think the doctors thought I was crazy.
“At about the same time, Kieran was having surgery for his heart and I broke down in front of his cardiologist, saying that he was doing an amazing job but we had this problem and I showed him all the graphs.
“He agreed that we couldn’t have Kieran suffering like that, especially with his heart condition and the strain, so he referred us to the respiratory team.”
The team at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital carried out a FeNO test, which checked for airways inflammation.
“FeNO played a large part in proving that it was asthma,” says Donna.
Kieran was then seen by the specialist team at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) children’s hospital where he was again given a FeNO test before he was prescribed anti-inflammatory treatment to help control his asthma symptoms and his inhaler dosages were set.
He was under the care of the hospital for six months before his condition stabilised enough and now has regular GP check-ups.
Donna said: “Now, he hasn’t been admitted to hospital for six years. He’s a dancer and an actor. He does ballet, tap, stage and modern and he’s a member of the Linskill Community Theatre group in North Shields.
“It’s something I could never have imagined when he was ill and he couldn’t even walk across a room without getting into difficulty. Once he got better, there’s been no stopping him. I think he’s been making up for all those lost years.”
Kieran is currently rehearsing for his latest show, as part of the chorus and dance troop in the Linskill’s performance of Snow White.
He has also played John in Peter Pan, took on three roles in the Madness musical Our House and performed in four dance festivals.
Donna is now calling on FeNO testing to be offered to more patients.
“Without the testing,” says Donna, “I doubt he would have been given the correct medication and we would have continued in the cycle we had been in for too long. A FeNO test could prevent parents being in limbo like we were when we couldn’t get a diagnosis.”
Dr Samantha Moss, a consultant paediatric respiratory physician at the RVI, describes FeNO testing as “part of the whole picture”.
“We’re using FeNO testing more in terms of our interpretation of a patient’s condition,” she said.
“As a one-off reading, there’s such a spectrum of normality, that it’s not especially helpful.
“But when you have a serial measurement, that’s really valuable because that might be the one thing that pushes you one way or the other when it comes to a patient’s medication and treatment.”