By Gary Fitzgerald
Savion Johnson took a deep breath, opened the comic book, and started to read: “Medical superheroes show up wanting to teach me about my asthma? Cool, no problem.”
Sitting in front of him was a group of children, listening with rapt attention. Savion, just 10 years old himself, continued: “In asthma, when you breathe in a trigger, your immune system overreacts and causes damage called inflammation.”
Savion, from Columbus, Ohio, read aloud from Medikidz Explain Asthma, a 3-part, brightly illustrated comic book series starring the Medikidz, superheroes of health and fitness, and … Savion, too. The reading was part of an outreach event last May by Meda U.S. and Allergy & Asthma Network in Washington, D.C.
Savion was diagnosed with asthma when he was 6 years old. It was all-too-familiar for his mom Tresha; her mother died of asthma in 1996.
“I was in denial a little bit that it was asthma,” Tresha admitted. “I just kept saying, ‘Oh, he’s just not breathing well.’ I didn’t want to accept the diagnosis.”
Savion initially struggled with taking his daily medication and using his quick-relief bronchodilator inhaler, but it would soon become routine for him. A year later, during a doctor’s appointment, he turned to Tresha and said, “You know, Mom, it’s okay that I have asthma.”
“That turned on a light for me,” she said. “I started to do a ton of research on asthma and I decided from that moment I would face it head on.”
As a preschool teacher, Tresha figured the best way to teach Savion and raise awareness about asthma was to write a children’s book. Her first effort, the self-published Adventures of the Hidden Asthma Triggers, featured Savion as the main character discovering what’s causing his coughing and wheezing.
Through Allergy & Asthma Network, Tresha and Savion connected with Meda U.S. last year to develop the Medikidz Explain Asthma series with Medikidz, a children’s medical education organization. The comic books are each written by doctors in a way that kids can easily understand. The third part of the series was released in November.
The books helped change how Savion and Tresha think about managing asthma and taking medications.
“Savion doesn’t view asthma as a limitation,” Tresha says. “To him, it’s just, ‘Oh, I have to take my medicine and that’s it.’ He’s very responsible with his medications and letting me know when it’s time for a refill.
“Just recently he said to me, ‘Mom, I need to clean out my holding chamber so I can put it in my bookbag for school.’ I showed him how to clean it, so he knows how to do that now.”
And how does Savion feel about being a comic book star – and sidekick to superheroes? One word: “Awesome.”
Reviewed by Andrea Jensen, CHES
Get copies of the Medikidz Explain Asthma comic books from Allergy & Asthma Network – call 800.878.4403 or email info@AllergyAsthmaNetwork.org. Adventures of the Hidden Asthma Triggers is available on Amazon.com and through Ingram Books.