Taking a walk could benefit asthma research, programs


Tawnya Shipley has a good reason to spread the word about asthma.

Her 8-year-old son, Trystan Herzog, narrowly escaped brain damage five years ago when he had his first attack of what became chronic asthma.

The family was living on an Air Force base in Japan at the time. On a trip to the grocery store, a friend who was helping Shipley buckle her son into his car seat noticed that the 3-year-old's breathing had become shallow, and he looked pale and tired.

Shipley assumed her son had caught a cold that was going around the base, but her friend recognized the symptoms of asthma immediately and urged her to take him to the emergency room.

Shipley knew nothing about asthma, but doctors told her that it could have easily killed her son that day.

"It's a quiet thing," says Shipley, who now lives in Yakima and helps Trystan manage his asthma and maintain a normal life. "It's very easy to manage asthma once you know that's what you have."

That's why Shipley and Trystan eagerly accepted when the American Lung Association of Washington asked them to be the poster family of the second annual "Blow the Whistle on Asthma" 5-kilometer walk that will be held Saturday on the Yakima Greenway.

More than 500,000 people in the state suffer from asthma, according to Community Health Plan of Washington, one of the major sponsors of Saturday's event. Of those, about 120,000 are children.

The American Lung Association of Washington's Yakima office hopes to raise $50,000 through pledges for this year's walk. The money will benefit research and local asthma programs, including the training of Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic staffers who provide in-home consultations to local people who have asthma.

The lung association says about 180 people have registered for the walk, which begins and ends in Sarg Hubbard Park, but several hundred more are expected to attend.

The event will also feature free cake as part of the American Lung Association of Washington's 100th birthday celebration and presentations by major sponsors, including Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center and the Yakima Regional Clean Air Authority.

Shipley hopes people who attend will go away with a better understanding of asthma, particularly in children.

"It's not something to fear," she says. "Your child isn't handicapped."

Since moving to Yakima two years ago, Shipley has learned that her son's asthma is triggered by allergies.

By being aware of his surroundings and carrying an inhaler, Trystan now can manage his asthma on his own. The Terrace Heights Elementary School student is active in soccer, baseball and band.

And he has an important message for his peers:

"When you're not breathing very good, you need to go to a parent and tell them," he says.

* WHAT: Second annual "Blow the Whistle on Asthma" 5-kilometer walk.

* WHEN: Saturday, 9 a.m. Registered walkers can turn in money at 8:15 a.m.

* WHERE: Sarg Hubbard Park along the Yakima Greenway.

* INFORMATION or to donate to a team: Call Hilary Brooks Alexander at 248-4384 or visit www.alaw.org and click on the Yakima asthma walk icon on the left side of the page.