Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)

The Little Newsletter That Started It All
by Nancy Sander

“This is dedicated to the ones I love.”

The first words of the first-ever MA Report, way back in 1985, still ring true today. I was on a mission: to share what I’d learned about getting my daughter’s asthma under control and to save lives.

The story of AANMA really began a few years before those typewritten words on the newsletter’s sky-blue pages; about the time I brought my newborn daughter, Brooke, home from the hospital. Her tiny chest heaved up and down in her frilly pink gown (after having two sons, I felt entitled to festoon her in ruffles and ribbons). Her every breath was precious. Little did I know each rattled breath was the forerunner of asthma and allergy symptoms that would plague her life.

Asthma ruled our family during Brooke’s early years. We were constantly revolving through emergency rooms and the pediatric floor at Inova Fairfax Hospital. Answers were scarce and often mixed with myths such as, “She’ll outgrow it,” “Death is rare,” and that “it’s a mother-induced condition” or caused by stress!

Then one day we enrolled in a clinical trial at Georgetown University Hospital. The allergist there, Martha Vetter White, MD, told us life could and would be better if we worked together. She listened to our concerns, asked what we wanted and then outlined a way to make that happen. We learned to use better medications and made lifestyle changes – and it literally saved Brooke’s life.

Suddenly, hospital and emergency visits stopped! Our lives were forever changed. I burned to share the good news – and to keep it friendly, down-to-earth and accessible.

My message to families was: You CAN do this – we’re all in this together. I tapped out the first MA Report at my kitchen on a broken typewriter and distributed it to local doctors’ offices. An unsolicited article about the little blue newsletter hit the Associated Press news wire – and suddenly AANMA was born!

Twenty-five years have passed, rewarded with medical and legislative breakthroughs, advances in treatment and attitudes and NIH Asthma Guidelines.

For many of us getting and keeping control over asthma and allergy symptoms is a strategic process requiring expert leadership. Those who succeed show the rest of us that it’s possible to live an extraordinary life with asthma: NFL linebacker Chris Draft, TV nanny Jo Frost, Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Nancy Hogshead, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, U.S. Congress Representatives Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH). Through my work with AANMA, I’ve met some truly inspiring people. And I’m blessed to find inspiration closer to home as well – in my now-grown daughter, Brooke, and my sons Mike, Dan and Joe and of course my husband, John. 

First published: The MA Report, November 2010.