a woman is sitting next to a young girl who is holding a puppet of a cat

Heather Henry with Ella Birch from Salford whose singing helps her lung health and asthma. She inspired Heather to start a singing group for children with asthma.

Nurse Heather Henry has taken her asthma awareness campaign BreathChamps online to help ease some of the stress that people with lung difficulties are facing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Heather is a nurse with a lung condition herself. That means she can’t get back on the front line. But it does mean she’s ideally placed with her professional knowledge and personal experience to support those who are worried at the moment.

BreathChamps is a Community Interest Company, three years in the making that Heather finally established just weeks before the conronavirus hit.


“The company is about helping children and young people with asthma to understand their asthma. And to do it in fun ways,” said Heather. “The aim is to tell the whole community about asthma and how to help support children with asthma.”

Faced with having to stay in and growing alarm in the asthma community, Heather decided to go online.

Addressing fear

Her first live broadcast was with a community pharmacist. It was fairly straightforward, she said, “But we thought we needed to do that because people with asthma are really scared that they are going to die of coronavirus. Like me. I’m no different to anybody else,” said Heather.

“If they’ve got children, they’re especially scared. And anxiety causes asthma to flare up.

“The idea is to start talking, to get communities engaged, to talk to them about their fears, to give them some information, and to do some creative things. It’s exactly C2,” said Heather.

two primary schools boys have a blowing race with a girl and a boy cheering them on

An asthma party in Little Hulton, Salford where children play games based on using the breath

“Although it has a clinical element to it, that’s not really the most important thing. The most important thing is about doing things in fun ways.”

Engaging and informative

Those fun ways are engaging and informative, like making lungs out of plastic bottles and balloons and straws, and themes around breathing and singing, which is good for lung health.

“It’s not just me broadcasting to them. It’s about listening to them, listening to each other,” said Heather.

Heather is looking to extend that interaction, and take it onto TikTok to reach more young adults.

“It’s important to get the information in front of them,” she said – in more ‘normal’ times young adults are more likely to die from their asthma.

Real people

What the broadcast did provide was the reassurance of a real nurse and a real pharmacist talking to real people about real things.

That direct and fun approach works for Heather, who often attends primary schools to talk about asthma as Darth Vada to teach them about lung health. But she also stands in front of young people as a nurse and asks for their help.

a young boy blowing through plastic lips

Fun with breath

“I stand there and I ask the children and young people, to help me. And will you learn some things so that you can look after each other. They all say yes. With bells on. They’re not really used to nurses asking children for help,” said Heather, how aims to harness their strengths.

That eagerness to help is also on show with the Brownies, who Heather is working with to create an asthma badge.

Enabling change

“It’s just about being authentic,” said Heather. “As Hazel [Stutely C2 Founder] says, ‘be the enabler of change, not the change itself’.” To enable that change Heather is using as many channels as imaginatively as possible.

“If you set the right conditions then change will occur,” she said. “So I’m setting what I think are the right conditions because there aren’t any others at the moment other than electronic means.

“So I’m asking what can I do electronically? I throw myself at communities and say ‘I know you’re feeling this I’m feeling this too. Here are some ideas, what can you make it.”

primary school children keeping balloons up in the air by blowing them

Breath games at an asthma party in Little Hulton, Salford

That electronic reach goes further than Heather’s core are of Salford and Trafford, with connections being made as far away as Kenya.

“I am quite scared about the whole thing,” said Heather, “but since I nearly died when I was 20 of an asthma attack, then I think I’ve got to do my bit.

The Joe Wicks of breathing

“It makes me feel very guilty as a nurse that I can’t do what other nurses are doing.”

What Heather is doing is offering reassurance, information and support and she’s well on her way to being the Joe Wicks of lungs and breathing.

Follow Heather on Twitter: @HeatherHenry4, @breathchamps and @breathstars or on Facebook and check out her BreathChamps.