RT_Asthma_Camp3UAB RT students Rachel Brantley, Ayla Buchanon, Qurra Dibble and Ashley Anyadike.UAB Respiratory Therapy student LaVonna Parham raced across a room while throwing a ball up in the air and then watched as her campers played musical chairs using hoola-hoops. In another area of the McWane Science Center, senior respiratory therapy student Ashley Anyadike sat in a circle with her campers as the subject got serious. Each camper was holding a cut out face to write down how their asthma makes them feel. The UAB students are camp counselors in Children’s of Alabama’s Sixteenth Annual “Reach Your Peak Asthma Camp.”

“The kids are having fun playing games but they’re still learning the serious matter of their disease,” said Anyadike.

More than 30 campers ranging in age from five to 10 years old learn how to maintain their disease on their own, recognize signs and symptoms and determine when to treat it.

RT_Asthma_Camp2UAB RT student LaVonna Parham helps a camper with her asthma inhaler.“A lot of kids and parents don’t know how to control an asthma attack,” said Anyadike. “We teach them measures to prevent an attack and how to make it easy if one does occur.”

Ten respiratory therapy students are volunteering during the three-day camp. The UAB RT program has been volunteering students to the camp for 10 years.

“Asthma is the number one pulmonary disease that affects children,” said Katy McMullen, an asthma social worker at Children’s of Alabama and coordinator of the camp. “These RT students will experience it in their practice. This gives them the opportunity to learn about working with children with asthma and how to address the disease.”

The RT curriculum includes a pediatrics rotation during their courses. But nurse practitioner Melissa Higginbotham says this goes beyond the classroom setting including learning how to use the peak flow monitoring.

“They are getting hands-on experience,” said Higginbotham. “They are learning the correct pediatric technique. And they learn quickly what works for one patient doesn’t work for another.”

For Parham, who graduates in July, the camp solidifies she wants to work with children and knows she is making a difference.

“If you can teach the children to self-manage to maintain their disease, they realize nothing has to interfere with their life,” said Parham.