Lifelong asthma and winning the battle to breathe

With 35 studies and drug trials related to asthma under her belt over the course of 30 years, Santa Chow lays claim to the moniker, five-star patient. “This is how I make my voice heard as an asthma patient,” she says. “I am hopeful that one day science will know how to prevent asthma, and maybe even find a cure in the future.”

Santa’s lived experience with asthma is rooted in her past, triggered as a toddler when she and her siblings were exposed to second-hand smoke from four packages of cigarettes per day from both paternal grandparents. “It was like living in a chimney,” she recalls.

“I never take breathing for granted,” she says. “I treasure every breath I take.”

The years of exposure left Santa and her two siblings with asthma, a chronic inflammatory respiratory disease marked by shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and numerous trips to the hospital emergency department.

Immigrating to Canada in her late teens, Santa’s uncontrolled asthma brought her under the care of Dr. Mark FitzGerald, past head of the Respiratory Medicine Divisions at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health, and co-founder of LAH.

It was under Dr. FitzGerald’s supervision that Santa began her decades-long association with medical research, rolling that experience into LAH-sponsored projects when the initiative came to be in 2017, thanks to an anonymous patient donation.

To LAH projects and research, Santa adds her perspective and lived experience to ensure scientific findings are translated into care and treatment relevant to patient priorities and needs. She also co-chairs on the LAH Community Partner Committee (CPC).

Benefiting most from the clinical drug trials, Santa has seen asthma medications evolve from inhalants to injectable antibodies that may prevent asthma attacks at the cellular level.

Through these advances in treatment and care, Santa’s asthma is now largely controlled, leaving her to enjoy her daily run, an activity that would have been impossible just a few short years ago.