A research participant at the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre has scaled the heights of Ben Nevis to raise money for Asthma UK.
Rachel McCarthy, from Lincoln, began experiencing symptoms of asthma when she was 22. Over the last 20 years her health has slowly deteriorated. She explains the impact on her life: “I run my own business along with supporting my husband with his. I was working at the office and literally going straight home to bed by 5pm. I am only 43 and I was finding that my life was becoming very reclusive. I’ve lost friends as I’ve been unable to go out and enjoy myself for many, many years.”
Fortunately for Rachel, a new medication called Mepolizumab, available through the specialist asthma clinic at Leicester’s Hospitals, has transformed her life. The medicine, which is given as an injection every four weeks, targets inflammation (or swelling) in the airways. Through attending the clinic, Rachel has been invited to participate in various research projects at the centre. She said: “I haven’t looked back. I’ve had zero admissions for my asthma and I’ve not been on a course of steroids since October 2017, which is absolutely amazing.”
In what might have an unthinkable challenge just 12 months ago, Rachel decided to climb Ben Nevis to raise money to support research into asthma. And so – on 24 August 2018 – she realised this ambition with 14 other brave souls, conquering the Scottish landmark in a time of 11 hours. All the climbers who took part have had their lives touched by asthma in one form or another. Like many other asthmatics, this was particularly difficult for Rachel because damp air and cold conditions are two of her main triggers of asthma.
Rachel said: “It by far has been the hardest challenge I’ve ever done bearing in mind less than a year ago I was in and out of hospital with uncontrolled severe asthma and continually on courses of steroids or antibiotics. Simple things, such as climbing a flight of stairs at home, were mammoth tasks for me. I’ve had a lifeline fitted at home, as the last asthma attack I had I was drifting in and out of unconsciousness.
“I’d like to thank my wonderful team of family, work colleagues and friends. I couldn’t have done it without them. My mum and dad (Lesley and David Ward) for being my superheroes; my sister (Rebecca) for her love and support; and my sister-in-law (Nikki Stout) who guided me through the climb and was my driving force throughout.”
Rachel is one of over 11,000 patients who have helped support research across many disease areas at Leicester’s Hospitals in the last year.
In her most recent clinical trials, she has provided breath samples for an on-going project using cutting edge technology to investigate whether ‘breath’ tests could be used to tell us more about inflammation in the lungs of patients with severe asthma and asthma attacks. She has also provided blood samples to scientists studying inflammatory cells in the blood.
This is on top of taking part in studies to evaluate Mepolizumab, the medication Rachel says helped her to combat her severe asthma.
Professor Salman Siddiqui is the severe asthma centre lead at Leicester’s Hospitals and a professor of airway disease at the University of Leicester. He said: “On behalf of the research teams, I’d like to express my gratitude to patients such as Rachel for helping us with our research. New therapies that target specific aspects of lung inflammation have recently become available for clinical use and represent a step change in our capability to help patients achieve better control of their asthma.
“Rachel has kindly provided her time, enthusiasm and numerous samples for our research. We hope the data that we generate can help identify how effective the medicine Mepolizumab is, and how this is related to improved outcomes for patients.”
Rachel and her fellow climbers have raised over £7000.00 for Asthma UK and donations are still coming in. If you would like to support research that has the potential to cure asthma and free the millions of people in the UK from the burden of this disease, the weblink is still active: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rachel-mccarthy5 .