Fabienne Ouellet: a breath of fresh air

Ms. Fabienne Ouellet worked as a receptionist for a firm of notaries on Montréal’s south shore for 10 years. She liked the work and her colleagues, but did not know that her work environment was making her ill. The mould left behind after three successive floods and 25-year old carpeting made for a potent allergenic cocktail, which caused Ms. Ouellet to suffer severe bouts of asthma. “In 2010, four months after the third flood, my health was deteriorating rapidly. At work, I was coughing fiercely; the slightest physical effort would have me wheezing; and I had excessive mucus secretions,” the 57-year old woman remembers.

Ms. Ouellet’s state of health became serious enough to see her hospitalized at Charles-Lemoyne Hospital in Longueuil. Despite taking cortisone and always having four bronchodilators (pumps) by her, her health was showing no improvement.

At the time, her friends felt helpless as her condition deteriorated before their very eyes, and her 19-year old daughter thought her mother had cancer because of the intensity of her coughing. “In fact, my daughter thought I was going to die,” Ms. Ouellet explains still visibly shaken.

Ms. Ouellet went back to Charles-Lemoynethree times, but by reason of the severity of her asthma, her doctor referred her for treatment at Sacré-Cœur Hospital, which is partnered with regional hospitals and is recognized for its expertise in pneumology, most notably in the treatment of severe asthma.

Upon arriving at the Hospital’s Service de pneumologie, Ms. Ouellet was touched by the warm welcome of the doctors and support team who all work and hope to improve patients’ lives. She underwent a battery of allergy tests to finally receive a diagnosis of professional asthma, that is to say, asthma caused by an unhealthy work environment.

A glimmer of hope

Despite the care she received from Service de pneumologie staff members, Ms. Ouellet’s condition was not improving and her asthma was wreaking havoc on her daily life. “At the time, I couldn’t stay outside for more than 10 minutes in winter, even with a scarf over my mouth. I would immediately start wheezing”.

November 1st, 2012, will remain carved in Ms. Ouellet’s memory forever. That was the day Dr. Catherine Lemière of the Sacré-Cœur Hospital Research Centre asked her to participate in a research protocol to test a new drug for treating asthma: mepolizumab. “I was so pleased by her offer that I broke into tears right there in her office. The state of my health had so deteriorated by then that I believed I was slowly dying. Her offer was a source of great hope to me.”

Although asthma is a chronic respiratory tract health problem, the tested drug was a veritable miracle for Ms. Ouellet. “From the third dose onward, I felt a radical change in my state of health. My quality of life improved 98%!” 

For two years now, Ms. Ouellet goes to the research centre every month to receive an injection of the drug. Each visit to the Centre is a pleasure. “The nurses, Simone, Murielle and Maryse are absolutely extraordinary. When I go for my appointment, I feel Iike I’m going to meet old friends. I always go back home in high spirits.” 

Today, Ms. Ouellet feels great and has many projects in mind. Having lived 15 years in Saint-Hubert, an area she loved, she would now very much like to buy a house in the Laurentians near water. She also hopes to find a new job working with the elderly. One thing is certain: the working environment at her future job will be a healthy one!

Photos and facts collected by Técia Pépin, Editor

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