By Karrie Gillett
FORMER airport baggage handler John Smeaton claims he would rather tackle a terrorist than endure another asthma attack.
The airport have-a-go-hero, who has had the breathing condition since he was 12, has relived the night he calls “the worst moment of my life”.
Smeaton, dubbed Smeato after he gained global recognition for his efforts to prevent the alleged car bombs, said people had no idea just how frightening an onslaught of asthma could be.
He said: “I was just having my dinner with my mum and dad when I got up to go to the toilet.
“I was walking back into the room and I just could not breathe. I knew straight away that I was having serious problems. It was the most frightening thing in the world.
“I have stood next to car bombs and not been frightened by them because I was in the middle of doing something.
“But I would rather do that every day than suffer an asthma attack because the fear that goes through your body at that moment is unbelievable.
“You believe at that moment in time that you are going to die because you physically cannot breathe. It is like getting an elephant and sitting it on your chest.”
John, from Erskine, Renfrewshire, was rushed to hospital were doctors battled to save his life after his vital organs started to fail and his brain swelled.
At the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley he was put on two jet ventilators to stabilise his breathing but his parents were told he might not survive.
The attack in October was the most severe he has experienced and during the days after the incident, his family stayed by his bedside and even received a get-well-soon call from Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
He said: “I was in an induced coma in intensive care when the next night my parents got a call from the hospital to say I might not make it past the next three hours.
“It was only through the dedication of the doctors during the 14 days I was in a coma that I am here to talk about it. They saved my life.
“I never, ever in my life want to go through something like that again and I have made drastic changes in my life.
“For one, I gave up smoking immediately and I am eating better. I always make sure I have my inhaler and I am frighteningly aware of what can happen.”
John – famous for the line “this is Glasgow you know, we’ll set about you” said in a TV interview at Glasgow Airport – is now an ambassador for Asthma UK Scotland.
And the former baggage handler is determined to highlight the life-threatening condition which kills one person every seven hours in the UK.
He attended a Cross Party Group on Asthma at the Scottish Parliament.
He said: “It doesn’t just affect the people who suffer asthma, it also hits the people around them.
“It’s so scary to watch someone fighting for a breath. It is not nice to think you might be watching someone fight for their life.”