How One Columbus Mom Took the Fear Out of Childhood Asthma

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Preschool teacher Tresha Johnsonis no stranger to asthma. After her mother died from it and her son was diagnosed with it, she wrote a children's book on the topic. "Adventures of the Hidden Asthma Triggers" is the story of her 10-year-old son, Savion, and his doctor, Nationwide Children's Hospital's Dr. Douglas McLaughlin.

Savion's diagnosis was a jolt to Johnson, and her son comforted her. "He looked at me and said, 'Mom, it's OK that I have asthma,'" says Johnson, who teaches at Milo Learning Center. "I would never admit it. Him saying that it was OK kind of took a weight off me."

Johnson wrote the book in 2014 to help children understand the chronic disease's triggers. In the story, the doctor pulls a cat, mold and cockroaches out of Savion's lungs, while a nurse explains the process to Savion. She wrote the book at the Downtown library and worked closely with McLaughlin to fact check the information presented in it.

Johnson found her illustrator, Joel Johnson (no relation), through the Columbus College of Art and Design advertising board. "He was really great to work with," she says. "I told him what I wanted on the pages, and he was able to do exactly what I wanted."

After Johnson wrote the book, which is now sold on Amazon, Allergy & Asthma Network CEO Tonya Winders invited Johnson and Savion to tell their story to Congress as part of National Asthma Awareness Month in May. Winders also connected the pair with a group of doctors from London who publish an educational comic book series,Medikidz. Taken with Savion's story, the publishers ofMedikidz(who chronicle the adventures of a gang of five larger-than-life superheroes who each specialize in a different part of the human body) made him a superhero in a trilogy of comic books about asthma. So far, two of the comic books have been published. The last is scheduled to come out in November.

How does Savion feel about being a character in his mom's book, as well as in the comic books? "He's real quiet and doesn't say too much, but he's excited about it," Johnson says. "He thinks it's awesome."