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Jill McGowan

Jill McGowan

Jill McGowan knows better than most the misery caused by asthma. Not only is she a sufferer herself, but as a nurse she has spent 27 years treating people with breathing difficulties.


By 1996 she had become used to seeing sufferers relying on inhalers and witnessed their ever-growing reliance on medication.

But her life - and the lives of dozens of her patients - was to change that year, when she was introduced to a little-known treatment called the Buteyko Institute Method.

Jill, 45, was working at a surgery when GP Gerard Spence heard of the technique, developed in Russia in the 60s.

Asthma sufferers generally breathe up to five times more air than they need. The Buteyko Institute Method simply involves training them to control their breathing so that they take in less oxygen.

Although she was sceptical, Jill decided to try the technique and was amazed with the results. In fact, she was so impressed that she was to sell her house to fund research into it.

She says: "At that time I was taking medication seven or eight times a day. I went along for the course, and after 24 hours I never touched an inhaler again."

Jill, who lives in Glasgow, was astonished to find that the treatment was not available on the NHS, so she applied to universities for grants to allow her to fund a pilot study.

When they turned her down she took a decision that sums up her selflessness. She sold her house and used the £55,000 proceeds to pay for the study herself.

Jill says: "Both my daughters had left home and I had a three-bedroom detached villa with lots of grounds to look after. For me not to carry it forward meant I would not have been true to myself."

The study resulted in a 96 per cent success rate, and, buoyed by this, Jill set up the Buteyko Institute Trust. It launched a two-year clinical study last April in which 600 asthma sufferers are now trying the technique.

Jill is also helping to pay for its work by donating three quarters of the salary she earns as a nurse and lecturer at Paisley University.

She hopes the clinical study will prove the Buteyko technique's benefits so that one day it can become available to all on the NHS.

She says: "I'm not a martyr, a hero or a saint. I just think the technique works for people.

"For the first time in 25 years, of nursing I see people getting better without drugs."