PhD, MN, Dip CPN, PG Cert FE, RGN, RNMH, FPC, MBIBH
Jill McGowan has made a great many personal sacrifices to bring the Buteyko Institute Method of breathing to the fore in the UK – to both the health care profession and sufferers of breathing disorders, particularly asthmatics. After failing to obtain government funding, she even sold her home to finance vital clinical research that could prove the success rate of Buteyko to the health care profession.
Her dedication has already won her great plaudits in the form of the Great Scot Award 2001, and the prestigious Pride of Britain Carer of the Year Award announced on national television just last month. Both awards celebrate unsung and modest heroes here in the UK.
Jill conducted a one-year pilot study, which showed that 92% of people who learned the Buteyko Method, were completely clear of their reliever medication within one week. After 12 weeks, 75% began reducing their preventative steroid medication. The ongoing two-year clinical trials, with 600 participants in Scotland, will see the first phase of results announced on World Asthma Day on Friday 3 May 2002. The study, which is the largest to be conducted in the western world, is due for completion in 2003. It was endorsed at the launch by Ukrainian, Professor Konstantin Buteyko, who developed the treatment in Russia during the 1960s and gave it his name.
Jill experienced asthma symptoms herself from a very early age. But as her mother was a nurse who did not believe in modern medication, no drugs were taken to alleviate symptoms until her late teens. After leaving home to embark upon a nursing career, she was soon introduced to asthma drugs – Ventolin, Bricanyl and Pulmicort – at the first onset of symptoms.
Diagnosis was made of Brittle Asthma, a condition that saw Jill suffer aggressive attacks sometimes resulting in overnight hospitalisation or the intake of several mixed nebulised drugs. This led to enormous disruptions in daily life, particularly as she was unable to share many activities with her young family. It is a similar story experienced by many asthmatics.
The condition did not restrict Jill’s ongoing professional development and eventual introduction to the Buteyko Institute for Breathing and Health (BIBH). When the Buteyko Method was first brought to the UK, Glasgow-based GP, Dr Gerald Spence, was asked to provide a professional opinion on the method. He began by carrying out a small survey and, as his Practice Nurse, Jill assisted.
It became obvious from the results that individuals gained huge improvements from Buteyko, with a subsequent reduction in medication and obvious cost saving to the NHS. But it took Jill almost another year and a severe attack at work in 1996 to convince her to enrol on a course herself.
During her first week on a Buteyko course run by Alexander Stakmatski (Sasha), her observations were quite disturbing but also extremely challenging. After all, she was a Practice Nurse who managed asthma with conventional training and medications. Could the current regime of medical and nursing management be wrong, she asked herself? Was there really a better, healthier and safer alternative to drugs that could help manage these symptoms and this condition?
To answer these questions, Jill endeavoured to set up a study herself that would provide sufficient evidence and, above all, encourage the NHS to adopt the Buteyko Method as first-line asthma management, prior to commencing any drug regime. Although the original proposal was initiated in 1996, it took another four years and the sale of her home before she could raise sufficient funds.
Australian BIBH Practitioners, Paul O’Connell and Russell Stark, taught the active elements of the trial. As the researcher, Jill undertook to teach the placebo and control groups, following individuals for two years to gather objective scientific evidence in support of the Buteyko Method as first line asthma management. Jill is using the research as part of her Doctor of Education qualification, which she is taking at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.
The state of Jill’s own health speaks volumes. Thanks to learning Buteyko, she feels she has quite literally got back her life. It has taken away her fear from venturing out and worrying when an attack might happen. Within four days of beginning the course, she had ceased taking all reliever medication. Six months later, she was off preventative steroid medication.
Jill, who qualified as a Buteyko Practitioner in 2001 with the Buteyko Institute of Breathing and Health Inc. (BIBH) also received further advanced training under the auspices of Professor Buteyko himself, along with other BIBH members. Jill is a former university lecturer, teaching a number of subjects including physiology, pathophysiology, nursing, ethics and law. It is now her intention to build the Buteyko profile by seeking funding from institutions and government bodies to allow further trials and observations on the implementation of the treatment.
The Buteyko Institute Trust was launched on World Asthma Day last year and has since gained charitable status, enabling individuals to donate funds for research and training. Jill has been busy raising the profile via charity events and media coverage including a QED television programme.
Jill is committed to delivering information on Buteyko both locally and nationally to all providers of health care. This will ensure clients have sufficient information and adequate choice in the management of their condition, in keeping with current political papers and practice guidelines.
As a health professional, Jill’s continual commitment is to ensure that the provision of information and ongoing research is sustained and that the Buteyko Method continues to provide a safe and effective drug-free method to promote health and well being. This is the reverse of current trends to increase doses of medication, to that of the ongoing reduction and, in many cases, discontinuation of drugs.
Jill was a keynote speaker at the 2nd International Buteyko Institute Conference in Melbourne, Australia, July 2002.
Jill has been actively involved in several projects on behalf of the BIBH including:
- Coordinating the clinical trial of the Buteyko Institute Method in Glasgow
- Liaising with hospitals and research institutes to instigate further research opportunities
- Training new practitioners in the Buteyko Institute Method
- Establishing a Charitable Trust (The Buteyko Institute Trust) in the United Kingdom to support current and future research initiatives (established April 2001)
- Heading up the UK team which visited New York in October 2002 to introduce the Buteyko Institute Method to Police and Fire personnel affected by respiratory problems from 11 September 2001
- Introducing the Buteyko Institute Method to Cuba in January and May/June 2004 in conjunction with Paul O’Connell. This involved training 14 Health and Education Professionals as Buteyko Practitioners and teaching the Buteyko Method to 240 individuals for their own health.
- Organising, hosting and presenting as a keynote speaker at the 3rd International Buteyko Conference in Glasgow, August 2005
- Introducing the Buteyko Institute Method to Turkey in August 2006
- Presenting at the 4th International Buteyko Conference, Brisbane, Nov 2007
- Organising the Buteyko Schools Project – the first time the Buteyko Institute Method course has been formally included in a Regional School Education curriculum
For further information on the Buteyko Method, courses and fees in the UK, Jill McGowan can be contacted as follows: