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Thales In the UK employee, Jon Bye, shares his experience of living with Asthma

Jon Bye (left) completes the London marathon

Jon Bye, Head of Content & Digital Marketing for Thales in the UK has raised thousands for charity through a series of sporting challenges and is now helping to raise funds and awareness for our company charity partner, Asthma + Lung UK. His motivation to get involved comes from his own experience of living with asthma since he was a young child. 

On World Asthma Day, Jon shares how he’s benefited from life changing research into the treatment of asthma over the years, how he’s learnt to live with the condition and even pushed himself to achieve things that many would not have believed possible!

When did you first discover you had asthma?

My earliest memories of asthma are as a kid running around with my friends on the streets of Manchester suburbs. I would be the first to stop because I was always out of breath. 

By the age of 9, I had my diagnosis, but the worst incident I can recall was when I was 11 years old.

I had been in the garden cutting the lawn with my dad and there was so much pollen in the air. Within 20 minutes, I went from mowing to struggling to breathe and a doctor by my side. It was very scary and something I vividly remember.

How has treatment changed over the years?

I have benefited first-hand from research into treatment for asthma and have had three different types of inhalers over the years. The first, a Spin Inhaler that involved breathing fine white powder into my lungs when having an attack - it felt like it was choking me. I had it for years and hated it!

Then in the late nineties I got a brown steroid inhaler to help keep my asthma at bay as well as the blue Ventolin inhaler to take during an asthma attack – these are the ones most people would recognise today. I cannot imagine going back to a Spin Inhaler now.

How did you learn to live with asthma?

I knew there were things I could not do like fast running and football, but I wanted to discover things I could do, and learn to do them well. I loved running but I was not the fastest kid. Sprinting usually ended in an asthma attack, but I learnt to control my breathing through cross country running. 

I worked hard over the years to control my asthma and increase my lung capacity. Most people warm up their limbs when they exercise, but I also “warm up” my lungs. When you learn about how precious and intricate your lungs are, you become very aware of them.

Today I feel like a fraud as I manage my asthma really well and rarely have problems but as soon as I get ill, everything goes to my lungs. 

Tell us how you got involved in endurance events

I decided to do a few events – 5Ks etc. and this lead to me taking on the challenge of the London Marathon 2006 to raise money for a local hospice. This inspired my father to do it with me the following year for NSPCC. We are huge Only Fools and Horses fans, and ran the distance dressed up as Batman and Robin – a proud day for both of us!

Many people think they could never do challenges like these but it is mind over matter. And for me, it’s also about keeping my lungs fit and healthy - to keep asthma away. 

What does it mean to be raising money for Asthma + Lung UK?

Of course I voted for them when we were asked to choose our next charity partner - it was a no brainer for me! Science has helped me personally to deal with my asthma and it’s great to see the Asthma + Lung UK shirts being worn and to hear people talking about the charity. 

People take lungs for granted, we just assume everyone can breathe and some of us simply cannot. So raising awareness is very important.

We have the Asthma+Lung UK charity bike ride coming up at the end of July, cycling from Plymouth to Bristol. Because it’s a cycling event, a lot of asthmatics might think it’s not for them, but hopefully they will look at me and feel inspired to take part. If I can help one person then it will be worth it.

You can find advice about ‘Asthma and your child’ here.