Trading Drugs For Fitness…

My youngest daughter contracted a serious pneumonia infection during the fall of 2011. She spent five days in the hospital as an incredibly sick little girl. The severity of the illness led to a very slow recovery, and lingering challenges that were eventually defined as “illness induced asthma”.


Karyn is naturally very stoic in nature which made properly diagnosing the ensuing period of diminished lung capacity a journey. Five months after the infection, it became obvious to me as I coached her on the track and in the swimming pool that her lung capacity was not normal despite her lack of complaining. It was a shock when further testing discovered that she was operating at just over 50% of normal capacity.

From April of 2012 to December of 2013, Karyn’s pediatrician steadily increased her asthma treatment medicines as I kept asking the question, “Will she ever fully heal?” Over the next year and a half, Matt and I became increasingly uncomfortable with the levels of steriods prescribed all the while Karyn continued to contract many additional respiratory illnesses and a second pneumonia infection. Ultimately, we decided to travel to Omaha to see a pulmonology specialist.

I did not know what we would find under the care of Dr. Kevin Murphy at Boys Town National Research Hospital, but my heart told me to keep looking and have faith. I read articles about using fitness training to strengthen lung capacity as a natural augmentation to regular asthma treatment. I thought that it might be a good fit for my sports-loving young athlete.


In addition to being an esteemed pulmonologist, Dr. Murphy is the father of two competitive swimmers which enabled us to find common ground on the natural fitness component of a new treatment plan. He switched Karyn to an inhaler that more deeply penetrated the lungs in order to reach the damaged tissue while also instructing me to create a strenuous fitness program that included both swimming and running in order to naturally strengthen her respiratory system.

Eight months later, we have begun to wean Karyn off of the daily preventative QVAR inhaler with incredibly exciting results. Her overall health is excellent and her lung capacity and general immune function are strong. For the first time in almost three years, I truly believe that Karyn will fully heal. I am confident that there will be a day when daily drug treatment will no longer be necessary. I am just as confident that fitness will play a permanent role in Karyn’s life journey.


Every day, I make decisions as both a mom and a cattle caregiver. I believe in the power of fitness — both for my children and my animals, and that governs my decision making process. There is tremendous beauty to be found in putting together the necessary pieces for well-being; and I love it when we can replace drugs with fitness in order to maintain optimal health.




Filed under Family, General

9 responses to “Trading Drugs For Fitness…

  1. That’s all good, but shes… a… Breaststroker!? The sacrilege.

    Do you recall all the kids with asthma that we swam with? While I don’t think it was ever seen as a negative, many of them kept inhalers in their training bags. They were out of sight. It is just what they did. Swimming was actually prescribed as an activity to build their lung function.

    • Likely more of a freestyler and IM swimmer but she also loves breaststroke 🙂

      I actually don’t have much memory of kids with inhalers growing up, but I am sure that you are correct that they were there — I just didn’t notice since they were quiet about it. Swimming has been a tremendous help for Karyn, and we are trying to figure out how to keep her in the water during the winter more consistently when our local outdoor pool is closed (and she is doing other sports). Fortunately, there is a smaller indoor pool about 15 miles away that will let us run some practices during the off-season. I am committed to continuing this training for her so hopefully I can find enough hours in the day to get it done. She also loves to run, but I am convinced that it is training in the pool that strengthens her lungs the most…

      Hope that all is well,

  2. cara

    wow. You were right on top of this problem. I would have hated all the steroids too. Thank God she is recovering…I know that any lung problem in cattle I’ve acquired certainly compromises them for life; so glad you got this under control. As for the winter swimming situation – put in an Endless Pool. Wouldn’t the whole family go nuts for it? Pricey, yes, but so is driving in the winter, etc.

    • My husband and I actually tossed around an idea similar to what you are suggesting — but at this point we are going to keep with the pool about 15 miles away as then I can offer the practice/conditioning to the other swimmers on our team as well 😃

      I did a little bit of training in a “flume” (which I assume is what an “endless pool” was called 25 years ago) when I was at the Olympic Training Center in high school. What a cool feeling!

      Our journey with Karyn has really educated us about lung health/asthma. No one in either of our families has had this type of challenge so the learning curve has been steep…

      I am so happy that we seemed to have turned a corner — dealing with a serious illness of a child is a scarey experience.

      Thanks for your suggestion! Good to hear from you.


  3. Love it! As a long time asthma sufferer, I can relate to your story very well!! Last year I had double lung pneumonia. It took 3 rounds of antibiotics to clear, but I was encouraged to keep up with my cardiovascular fitness- running was my primary source as well as swimming & biking. One month after the infection cleared I competed in my first triathlon. Cardiovascular training was undoubtedly a key factor in my return to health.

    • Good for you! Yes, it sounds like you can definitely empathize…so glad that your health is back to a better place.

      Keep running 😀


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