It’s little wonder that Liz remains so passionate about finding causes and cures for asthma. Not only did she witness its distressing and debilitating effects in patients on the wards but also in her physiotherapy clinic, held after she had finished on the wards.
Liz, who also worked on Orthopaedics, Medical, Children and ICU wards during her long career, says: “The worst thing about an asthma attack is the terror it produces.
“Unless you’re educated you simply won’t know what to do. What most people don’t realise is that it’s actually an inability to breathe out, rather than to breathe in”.
Many sufferers live with the chronic condition – and a shocking three people in the UK die every day as a result of an asthma attack.
For many sufferers on the Island, the Swim Group has become a lifeline since it launched in 1983 under a nationwide programme by the then National Asthma Campaign. Over 100 groups were set up all over the country – but 34 years on, only two of them are still thriving, the one here on the Island and another in Leeds.
Liz is convinced of the reason for this: “Our two groups were the only ones that refused to make sessions competitive, because for asthma sufferers, that is futile.
“Our focus here was always different – it was about all the family being involved, and everyone being taught to swim together in an atmosphere of play and enjoyment”.
“I have never seen anything so happy in my life as our non-competitive swimming galas”.
The late Dr David Hide, a consultant paediatrician at the Royal Isle of Wight County Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital was a great influence on Liz with his two world renowned Cohort Studies in 1998 and 1999 and his forward-thinking treatment of asthma, which included allergy avoidance.
As a direct result of this, the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre at St Mary’s is now involved in world-leading research led by Professor Hasan Arshad and Professor Graham Roberts at Southampton University. Liz said: “It is incredible to think that all of this important work started on the Isle of Wight”.
And as for the fated event that brought Liz to the Island from London, that was when her late father George Rumble re-trained as an Anglican priest in the mid-1960s, and took his first job at All Saints Church in Ryde.
Later, he and her mother Ethel moved to Yarmouth where, sadly, he died just four weeks later.
But this sealed the family’s link with the Island: Ethel moved back to Ryde and Liz along with husband Brian and two young children bought their current home in Ashey in 1966. Brian’s Naval career in minesweeping meant he was based in two-year stints at locations in Portsmouth, Scotland and Bahrain with two years in between on the Island. It meant, though, that Liz was able to practise physiotherapy in a variety of locations, from Glasgow to Plymouth as well as the Persian Gulf.
During the Gulf posting, she worked at Bahrain Women’s Hospital, and vividly recalls the echoing sound of the baby asthmatics as they were brought across the figure-of-eight courtyard – a sound that haunts her to this day, but helps to keep her pressing on with the asthma awareness and support for the research work.
“There’s a high incidence of asthma over there of course, because of the oil well pollution” she says. “But it is a condition that is on the rise in many parts of the world, so ongoing work is vital”.
When she’s not sitting on committees, helping at Swim Groups or visiting Abbeyfield residents, Liz loves nothing better than sitting in her own garden, which overlooks a classic Island farmscape.
“I did a lot of travelling for many years with EFA, (European Federation of Asthma & Allergy Associations) representing the National Asthma Campaign but I’ve not flown since the 1980s and have no intention of doing so again. I’m more than happy here!”
In fact, the furthest she is planning to go this year is France, on a family holiday just before her big birthday.
Next year there are plans for another party to mark her and Brian’s Diamond Wedding – a big informal get-together in their garden.
No doubt there will be plenty of well-wishers – from son Paul, daughter Nina and four grandchildren, to the many Islanders who have come into her orbit over the decades.
As well as her Asthma Society work, Liz also manages to find time to be a Havenstreet & Ashey Parish Councillor, a committee member for the David Hide Centre and home visitor for the Abbeyfield Society.
“Because I’ve never changed my hairstyle, people still recognise me from years ago in my hospital days, or from the Swim Group. That’s what I love so much about the Island – it’s a real community”