Ontario mom fighting for kids to carry inhalers at school

PC MPP behind private members' bill ''Ryan's Law''

Ontario schools should allow students with asthma to carry puffers with them in case of emergencies, says the mother of a 12-year-old boy who died when no one could get his inhaler in time because it was locked in the principal's office.

Ryan Gibbons died Oct. 9, 2012 when he suffered a severe asthma attack during recess at school in the village of Straffordville, in southwestern Ontario.

Sandra Gibbons says her son told his friends he wasn't feeling well and probably started panicking when they had to carry him to the office where the inhaler was kept.

"So as he was going to the office to get his inhaler, he kind of was having a hard time and had to be carried into the office, and by the time he got there he had blacked out", she said. "To this day I really don't know how exactly the whole day unfolded for him."

School policy was to keep the inhalers under lock and key and staff repeatedly confiscated spare inhalers from Ryan, added Gibbons.

"I received many a phone call stating Ryan had taken an inhaler to school and they found it in his bag and would like me to come pick it up because he wasn't even allowed to bring it home with him," she said. "There's supposed to be one in the office and that's the only one he can have. I didn't understand why."

After her son's death, Gibbons, 40, started a petition asking the government to force school boards to adopt standardized asthma management plans, and urged all three parties to pass a private member's bill from Progressive Conservative Jeff Yurek.

"Unfortunately, I stand here today trying to get this bill, Ryan's law, in place so that nobody else has to feel how I feel every day, and that's missing my son.''

Yurek said his bill would allow students with asthma to have a puffer in their pocket or backpack and force every school board to develop a comprehensive asthma policy.

"Provided the doctor said it's fine for them to have the puffer they will have a spare puffer somewhere in the school, probably the principal's office, but they will have (another) puffer in their pocket or in their bag, however they feel comfortable having it, but it will be on them at all times throughout the day," said Yurek.

"Hopefully we can take an important step toward ensuring a tragedy like this never happens again."

Most school boards have some type of asthma policy, but they vary greatly in terms of scale and scope, added Yurek.

"In some schools, students are not allowed to have them outside of the principal's office, some have medical stations where teachers have pictures of students who need inhalers but still don't have it on hand, and in other schools it has to be in the teacher's desk, which doesn't help them when they go in the playground", he said.

Education Minister Liz Sandals expressed support for the idea behind Ryan's law during second reading debate in the legislature, but said there may need to be a more comprehensive bill covering other medical conditions such as anaphylaxis.

"There really does seem to be good evidence that, as soon as the child is able to manage their own medication, it's important that they have the puffer or the EpiPen on their person", said Sandals. "Staff should know how to recognize and manage worsening symptoms and asthma attacks."

Gibbons also expressed frustration that the school Ryan attended his entire life, and was well aware of his condition, assigned him the trombone in music class, which she felt made him more vulnerable to the fatal asthma attack.

"He should have been on something other than a wind instrument", she said.

The Ontario Lung Association, which is backing Yurek's bill, said there are 1.9 million people in the province with asthma, including 500,000 children.

"Bill 135 will ensure that all schools in Ontario are safe for our children, especially the one in five with asthma", said Lung Association spokeswoman Andrea Stevens.

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  1. Mark7 posted on 12/08/2013 03:10 PM
    This is the first time I have heard of schools confiscating inhalers. The school where the child died should be charged at least with manslaughter if not murder. If I had a child with asthma and the school tried to confiscate their inhaler, I would have them in court faster than they could rescind the barbaric practice.
    1. Frankie posted on 12/09/2013 03:51 PM
      @Mark7 You're bang on!
  2. JohnVoter posted on 12/08/2013 05:17 PM
    Why not put all the energy into focusing on WHY your kids need the inhalers in the first place? If they didn't need them they wouldn't have to carry them and I could read more interesting news.

    With each dose of Ventolin exposes your child to more and more steroids leading to more life time health issues if used long term. Which will further lead to MORE medications which lead to MORE health issue. Why not rally on education and understanding and not stuffing our children full of drugs and look into root causes of issues? Our health care system would much prefer drugs over lifestyle changes to support their bottom line.

    It can be as simple as looking at a few things below:

    Carpets in the house?
    Processed foods?
    Dander and dust in the room?
    eating dairy/over all diet?
    cold drinks?

    Yes, There are people who genuinely need inhalers, most should change up a few environmental and dietary habits and be just fine.
    1. Mark7 posted on 12/09/2013 03:21 PM
    2. Karl Burgin posted on 12/09/2013 03:32 PM
      @JohnVoter Yeah...ah, no.

      I guess we could prove your theory wrong, when dozens of kids change their lifestyle, and still asphyxiate to death.
      Parents don't give kids puffers for fun.
  3. Frankie posted on 12/09/2013 03:15 PM
    If they establish the child could have survived had his inhaler not been taken away the staff involved should be charged with manslaughter. Their policy is barbaric, ignorant, and potentially criminally negligent. Furthermore, the staff involved should lose their license and never be allowed authority over children.

    It is truly shocking, with the current knowledge about asthma, that such a barbaric policy could even exist.

    Unbelievably sad, and I hope the parents find a good lawyer to sue those involved. It won't bring their child back but may prevent the senseless death of other children resulting from these barbaric policies.
    1. Mark7 posted on 12/09/2013 03:21 PM
      @Frankie Bang on the point. I answered this post first and am glad you see the real point. As for what John Voter was rambling on made no sense whatsoever. The child obviously needed his inhaler to survive.
    2. Karl Burgin posted on 12/09/2013 03:35 PM
      @Frankie Criminally negligent would be more like it.
      Again, parents don't give their kids puffers for fun. I would be confident to say probably 100% of the time, its doctor prescribed.

      If my kid died, because they took away her inhalant, I cannot tell you how fast, and how far I will bring war to their doorstep- to each and every single individual who was involved.
  4. Frankie posted on 12/09/2013 05:22 PM
    Here's Jeff Yurek's email address for those who wish to contact him to sign a petition, contact their MPP, etc.

    If we lived in caves or asthma were a new disorder I could perhaps excuse this barbaric policy, however considering how much is known about asthma, there is ZERO excuse for this.
  5. john posted on 12/16/2013 01:55 PM
    hmm i dont think bubble wrap is good to use in a asthma attack last i looked .
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