Charity aims to help children breathe easy

Steven Hall, explains how he tries to raise funds and awareness for the Breatheasy Programme through sports events.

It’s important to be grateful for the simple things in life because even something as simple as breathing is difficult for some.

This was one of the main messages conveyed at a charity dinner on Thursday November 24, organised for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital’s Breatheasy Programme. The event took place at the Rockwell Hotel in Green Point and was organised by Breatheasy and Econorisk.

South African band Watershed provided entertainment on the night while there was also an auction to raise funds.

Breatheasy is an initiative is based at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Rondebosch. They aim to help children who have tracheostomies (a hole in their throat to breathe) and train parents to look after the children’s needs.

Steven Hall, who raises funds for the Breatheasy programme and one of the people who organised the event, said he decided to get involved with the cause after his mother had a tracheostomy before she passed away.

“She was in the UK in the ICU for 100 days and I realised how grateful I am for the small things in life and I wanted to pay it forward.”

When Mr Hall came back to South Africa, he decided to join the Breatheasy programme because it resonated with him. “I made contact with Jane (Booth, a nurse at Red Cross) and told her my story and I figured I could do it through sport.”

Mr Hall then entered the half ironman to raise funds and awareness for the programme. He started a group called We TRi For Breatheasy and, he said: “We’ve raised about
R150 000 already. When I started I thought it would just be a once off but then I wanted to do more.”

Mr Hall said he also planned to run the Comrades Marathon to raise awareness about the initiative. “Breatheasy teaches parents how to look after their kids so that they can go home and lead a normal life. The government pays for the children while they are in the hospital but when the leave, the equipment is funded by the programme.

“Without funding, the programme wouldn’t happen so I try to do that through sport.”

Mr Hall, who works for Old Mutual as a financial planner, said he wasn’t a professional sportsman by any means and “came off the couch”.

“Doing a half ironman in 2015 was relatively crazy for me. I was thankful that I could do it. For me to come off the couch and do it, I learned my physical limits but I was doing it for more than just myself and that was the key. A lot of the children come from (poor backgrounds) and parents didn’t always have the means to visit the children.

“Now with the programme, the kids can go home, so it is incredible.”

Sister Jane Booth, an advanced clinical nurse at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital’s Breatheasy programme, was also at the event, which she said was vital to raising awareness about the initiative.

“In 1989 we sent our first child home and the children need equipment to go home. We used to do our own fund-raising for it.”

She said that in 2011 the Red Cross Children’s Hospital decided to take on the task of raising funds. “The type of children we send home have the little hole in the throat to breathe or they sometimes need a machine to breathe. We have to make that machine as portable as possible so that the children can have a nice life.”

She said some of the machines required a battery backup which allowed them to be more mobile. “I have been there since the beginning and we’ve got a ward of 10 beds. We train the families to learn how to cope.

“There are children who are born with a blockage and it could be something that happened while they were developing. It could be any kind of blockage of the upper airways. Most children outgrow the condition, usually by the time they are two.”

Ms Booth added that if the children don’t outgrow the condition, then surgery is possible after two.

The condition, although rare, still happens and Sister Booth has been very involved in training families in Cape Town. “We like to be able to offer them quality of life so they can live at home, go to school and live a normal life.”

They have treated about 1 000 children since the programme started and currently have about 140 in the programme, 40 of whom are on ventilators.

For more information about how to get involved, visit the Facebook page at http://