A group of kids got to touch real human lungs, learn karate and perform a skit - all to help them learn about asthma.
Valley Hospital and Medical Center and the American Lung Association are sponsoring classes for asthma patients ages 6 to 12 and their parents. The class continues Tuesday at the hospital.
During the first class, held this Tuesday, nine children learned a few basic karate moves - and how to control their breathing.
Lined up in two rows, they stood facing black-clad karate instructor Tim Osborn.
They concentrated on breathing in while raising their arms and breathing out as they let them down.
Osborn showed them how to kick, exhaling as they kicked, inhaling as they put their foot down.
“It teaches you how to breathe,” said Osborn, who had asthma as a child.
“You start having an attack and you take short breaths,” he said. “I was stressing the full, deep, relaxed breathing.”
During the next lesson, he said he would begin with a quiet breathing exercise. “In most martial arts, there’s a period of meditation when you sit down, breathe and relax and close your eyes,” he said.
Most children can’t really tell what’s happening when they’re having an asthma attack, said nurse Sue Clutter. They just know it’s a struggle to breathe out.
So hospital workers helped the students visualize what goes on inside the body.
Two balloons showed the difference between a normal lung and one of a person with asthma.
The students squeezed a plastic container that pushed air through a balloon.
Then they tried doing the same with a balloon restricted by a net, which took extra effort.
They also touched preserved human body parts, including a healthy lung and one with cancer. Through the clear plastic bags, they could feel that the unhealthy lung was much harder.
“They loved that stuff,” Clutter said.
All of this was a fun way for Valley resident Dustin Rose, 11, who has mild asthma, to learn about the ailment.
“It’s harder to breathe when you have asthma,” he said.
Dustin said the evening’s highlight was watching the group skit about a family discussing whether asthma should prevent a child from going camping.
His sister, Rose, 7, said that she enjoyed learning a little karate.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bruce Abbot, a pediatrician, was teaching their parents and others about what happens in the lungs during an asthma attack.
He told them that certain conditions trigger attacks. Examples include viral infections, air pollutants, animal dander, pollen, dust, paint, perfumes and cold air.
Triggers cause the airway to be narrowed, obstructing the airflow.
During the next class, Dr. Michael Kraemer, a pediatric allergist, will discuss asthma medication.