Inspire. One simple word can have many definitions. To inspire means to empower, motivate, influence, move and it also means to inhale or to breathe in – something Jill Hubick, Registered Nurse and Certified Respiratory Educator with The Lung Association has never taken for granted.
Jill knows all too well what it is like to be left breathless after spending most of the first ten years of her life in the hospital with severe asthma. She was told she would never be able to run, play sports or lead a normal life. As a child, medications did not keep her asthma controlled which often led to pneumonia. “When I was younger I usually went into the hospital every three weeks and remained there for several more weeks. I knew all the staff on the pediatric ward and I remember even going to school at the hospital at times.”
On more than one occasion Jill was admitted into the pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Regina and her parents were told she may not make it through the night. With each breath Jill drew in, her parents feared it would be their daughter’s last. Despite the thousands of nights Jill spent in hospital, she was never without one of her parents. That unconditional love however came at a price. Her mom, Deb, quit work to care for Jill and Jill’s medications were expensive costing half of the family’s income. “When I look back now, I really don’t know how my parents did it. The emotional and financial stress my family experienced because I was left breathless was unimaginable.”
When Jill was healthy enough to be at home and go to her regular elementary school she still required care. Her mom would come to the school and give Jill a mask at lunch time each day. Jill was not allowed to take part in physical activity. At recess she played close to the doors of the school because when the bell rang she wouldn’t be able to run in from the playground and make it to class on time. “I always wondered what it would be like to run and not feel like you were suffocating.”
In hospital, Jill required special treatments including chest therapy. “I remember different health care providers would pound on my back. As a kid I didn’t understand what they were doing and each time I received chest therapy I thought I was being punished until one day a respiratory therapist came into my hospital room with a large green puppet.” The respiratory therapist would use the puppet to demonstrate the medical treatment Jill was going to receive and explained how it would help her breathing. Jill no longer feared any of the care she received. “I never forgot that puppet and I never forgot the respiratory therapist who made such a difference in my life. She inspired me and has helped shape the person I am today.”
Over the years research and The Lung Association have improved the treatment for severe asthma significantly. Today Jill’s asthma is well controlled and she leads a healthy, happy and active life. She is a fitness instructor and no longer wonders what it feels like to run without being left breathless. She is also a respiratory educator with The Lung Association. In her role, she is a vital member of the asthma care team located in the St. Mary’s pediatric clinic. She doesn’t own a large green puppet, but carries a teddy bear with her to demonstrate to her patients how to take their asthma medications. Jill also leads The Lung Association’s Caring Breaths Financial Assistance Program which assists patients with lung disease, along with their caregivers, to reduce the financial burden and provide aid to help with costs associated with their treatment, medical equipment and medications.
“No family today should have to experience the financial hardships mine did because of their lung disease. We have come a long way over the years, but our work is far from complete. As a respiratory educator, my work is a reminder of all I have to be grateful for and that inspires me.”