A mother who lost her son to an asthma attack is campaigning to make inhalers free in England – saying people shouldn’t have to ‘pay to breathe’.

Donna Smitheman, 44, from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, lost her son, Jordan Ashley Smitheman, 25, in December 2023 when he collapsed following an asthma attack.

The mother-of-two and her husband, Steven, 48, performed CPR before paramedics took over – but they were unable to save his life.

Donna, who is a special educational needs teaching assistant, is campaigning for asthma treatment to be free in England.

Donna said although Jordan was able to afford treatment – and kept an inhaler in every pocket – some families may struggle. 

Donna Smitheman, 44, (right) from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, lost her son, Jordan Ashley Smitheman, 25, (second from left) in December 2023 when he collapsed following an asthma attack

Donna Smitheman, 44, (right) from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, lost her son, Jordan Ashley Smitheman, 25, (second from left) in December 2023 when he collapsed following an asthma attack

Donna, said: ‘His heart rate kept coming back but the oxygen couldn’t get into his lungs. His lungs were squashed together. It’s been awful.

‘The cost [of inhalers] wasn’t a problem for us but for other people it could be. People shouldn’t have to pay to breathe – that’s not fair.’

Jordan was diagnosed with asthma aged two after his parents realised he was coughing badly when he was running around.

Donna said the condition didn’t hold Jordan back but he would often end up in hospital during the winter due to attacks.

She said: ‘He ended up intensive care at 17. He was in a coma for five days. It was awful. Even then I didn’t realise how serious asthma can be. We didn’t see how bad it could actually get.’

Jordan was with his girlfriend when the fatal asthma attack happened on December 29, 2023.

The couple rang for an ambulance but after being told there was a four hour wait Donna and Steven decided to take him to the hospital themselves.

Jordan was with his girlfriend when the fatal asthma attack happened on December 29, 2023

Jordan was with his girlfriend when the fatal asthma attack happened on December 29, 2023

The mother-of-two and her husband, Steven, 48, (second from left) who works in fabrication, performed CPR before paramedics took over - but they were unable to save his life

The mother-of-two and her husband, Steven, 48, (second from left) who works in fabrication, performed CPR before paramedics took over – but they were unable to save his life

Since losing her son, Donna has thrown herself into planning the funeral and is now campaigning

Since losing her son, Donna has thrown herself into planning the funeral and is now campaigning

Donna said the family have always been 'very close' - and Jordan was particularly close with his sister, Alisha, 20 (Jordan pictured with little sister Alisha when they were children)

Donna said the family have always been ‘very close’ – and Jordan was particularly close with his sister, Alisha, 20 (Jordan pictured with little sister Alisha when they were children) 

Donna said: ‘He was struggling to talk and breathe. We were moving for less than five minutes and he made these three awful noises and collapsed.

WHAT IS ASTHMA?

Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.

It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.

The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.

Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.

Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.

Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.

If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.

Source: NHS 

‘We pulled over and started doing CPR. We rung for an ambulance again and they told me to get a defibrillator.

‘I couldn’t get in as I’d left my phone with my husband who was being talked through chest compressions.

‘The paramedics had got to us when I got back. They took him to hospital and continued for an hour before they had to turn the machine off. We cried but we were numb.’

Since losing her son, Donna has thrown herself into planning the funeral and is now campaigning.

She said: ‘An inhaler advert came up on my Facebook and I clicked it and a few comments said this is free in Scotland and Wales.

‘Jordan always used to say: “How come I have to pay if it’s a life-threatening condition?”.’

Although Jordan was able to afford treatment, Donna is aware that some families may struggle.

She said: ‘I’m not doing this for Jordan. There is nothing we can do now. But if we can help one other family.’

Donna said the family have always been ‘very close’ – and Jordan was particularly close with his sister, Alisha, 20.

She said: ‘They even got mistaken for being a couple. He was so protective, so thoughtful. He was one of a kind.’

In her Change.org petition, Donna explains in the UK approximately 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for this disease. 

But despite these high numbers, asthma medication is not free on the NHS in England (whereas it is in Scotland and Wales).  

She wrote: ‘We believe that access to life-saving medication should be a right, not a privilege determined by one’s ability to pay. 

‘We call upon the NHS and the government of England to make all asthma treatments free of charge. This will ensure that everyone suffering from this condition has equal access to necessary care and can manage their symptoms effectively without fear of cost.’

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