You Don’t Look Sick: ‘Asthma caused me to be hospitalised after vacuuming’

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You Don’t Look Sick is our weekly series that discusses invisible illness and disability.

Lots of people suffer from debilitating symptoms but when they are out in public, they are challenged when they use priority seats or disabled parking.

Although they are disabled or suffering from a chronic illness, you would have no idea anything is wrong.

Sometimes they are told ‘you don’t look sick’ because they don’t have any visible signs of being disabled.

This series shows that they still face symptoms that affect their lives every day and how they are judged by other people.

Victoria Taylor, 29, Hampshire, was diagnosed with asthma as a child but as she got older, it developed into a more severe type called severe refractory eosinophilic asthma.

Although 5.4 million people in the UK have asthma, Victoria feels it is very misunderstood, particularly for the 200,000 people with severe types.

She explains: ‘I wasn’t diagnosed with this specific type of asthma until I was 26.

‘The relief I felt when I was diagnosed with severe asthma was huge.

‘My asthma had deteriorated dramatically when I was 22 but I found it difficult to get healthcare professionals to take me seriously.

‘Severe asthma is misunderstood by the public and among healthcare professionals. It’s not just asthma that is ‘severe’, it’s asthma that doesn’t respond to usual medicines.

‘Out of the 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK, an estimated 200,000 people have severe asthma like me, but it can take years to be diagnosed and treated.

‘Before I was diagnosed, my asthma was so bad I was constantly in hospital, but everyone around me made me feel like a hypochondriac.

‘I felt so embarrassed by my health I would put off booking an appointment with my GP.

‘Things turned around when a consultant spotted me at hospital during an asthma attack and diagnosed me with severe asthma.

‘After that I found a GP who listened to my every worry and who has gone above and beyond to help me.

‘Despite my diagnosis I’m not in the clear. I thought I’d be back cycling and running and chasing a career in medicine that I’d always dreamed of, but four years later my health is worse than it’s ever been.’

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