Asthma clinic on wheels helps kids all over East Texas


POSTED: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 5:32pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 6:39pm

UT Health Northeast is helping kids breathe a little easier. They have a mobile clinic, traveling around to different schools helping children with asthma and allergies. It's called "The Breath of Life Mobile Clinic ."

This Breath of Life Mobile Clinic has been going around to different schools in East Texas full-time since last October. They go to all the TISD schools and now they're making their way to Longview, Palestine, Arp and other areas. Some kids that weren't able to play outside are now able too, and the allergy medicine parents could not afford is now available.

Dr. Paul Sharkey,an asthma and allergy doctor at UT Health Northeast, started the mobile clinic. He saw this same one in California but he is the first one to bring, Breath of Life Mobile Clinic to a rural area.

They first started the mobile clinic in 2008. It started off at four local schools in Tyler and now they're full time visiting one school a day all over East Texas. Dr. Sharkey felt so passionate about starting one in East Texas because in 1998 he had a young boy, who had a fatal asthma attack and died at home because his single mom couldn't afford medication. Now, the mobile clinic is named after him Wesley Mass. Sharkey wanted to provide effective asthma care for those who can't afford. The mobile clinic provides free screenings and cheaper asthma medicine for the children.

"This is a way that we can deliver care to children where you don't have to worry about transportation, it's going to be at school, you don't have to worry about finances whether you can pay for it or not and if language is an issue like it is for a lot of people, we have people that are bilingual," said Dr. Sharkey.

Dr. Sharkey said this gives a kid who has a lot of asthma trouble who wants to play sports and outside, the chance to be a normal kid.

"We really want to provide this service for children who need it all over East Texas," said UT Health Northeast nurse practitioner Misty Houston.

It's for kids like Latrail Crayton.

"I had some problems with my asthma right here (pointing to his chest)," said Crayton.

The 4th grader loves playing sports like basketball and football.

"He wants to play sports at our church," said his "Popo" Curlie Alexander.

Crayton also loves horses.

"I like horses. I didn't know I was allergic to them."

But, his asthma has landed him in the emergency room multiple times.

"He was having to go to the emergency room for treatments and the nurse had to frequently call his Grandpa to get him so even though he was coming to school he would miss most of the day," said Houston.

This mobile clinic helps at least 10 to 12 kids a day from different schools.

"Since I've been bringing him (Crayton) here he's doing a lot better. He doesn't need that asthma treatment," said Alexander.

Houston, who manages the mobile clinic, never knew there was such a need.

"I thought there is no way that many untreated, undiagnosed children with asthma are in East Texas and I was wrong."

The mobile clinic offers free service and the medicine is a lot cheaper.

"It's absolutely the most awarding thing I've ever done to see the smiles on these kids faces and to provide the medication they would not have access," said Houston.

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