Even though my 5-year-old daughter was diagnosed with asthma two years ago and Iíve done my share of research on the topic, I donít consider myself an expert at all. Thanks to my involvement with the†Moms Clean Air Force Ė a group of moms fighting for clean air, Iíve learned a lot about how this disease affects Latino kids in particular.
Latino children are 60% more at risk for asthma than white non-Latino kids.
Because I am Latina, Iíve become even more interested in the topic and what I can do to create awareness.
Weíve been lucky that my daughter has never had a full-blown asthma attack and the majority of her problems now stem from colds that usually have to be treated a bit more aggressively so they donít become something else. Iíve never seen someone have an actual asthma attack, but my husband is no stranger to them. He lived with this serious disease for many years as a child and his memories of trying to breath but not being able to are as vivid for him today as they were more than three decades ago. He spent a lot of his early years in and out of hospitals and the stories of his attacks are pretty scary.
Nothing could have prepared me to hear Lydia Rojasí talk during the†Moms Clean Air Forceís Blog Talk Radio Show about the asthma epidemic and Latino kids. Four and a half years ago, Rojasí daughter, Steph, died of an asthma attack two months before she wouldíve turned 16 years old.
I listened in horror as Rojas retold the heartbreaking story about how her daughter died and how she still doesnít know how it happened. No parent should have to tell such a story. According to Rojas, her daughterís asthma was under control. A specialist regularly saw her, and Rojas made sure her daughter was taking her medication accordingly.
The most harrowing part of the story for me is that by the time Rojas made it to the hospital, her daughter was already dead. I could try to retell the whole story here, but I feel like it would lose its impact.
If you have a child with asthma, I beg you to make it a point to listen to the†show so you can be jolted into action, just like I was.†If you donít have a child with asthma, you should still listen to the program because it was laden with invaluable information about this epidemic that is affecting our†niŮos, in many instances because of the bad air quality they are breathing.
After my daughter was diagnosed with asthma, I made sure I carried her inhaler around with us everywhere we went. In addition, I informed the preschool she attended of her condition and gave them an inhaler to keep in their office. I was reassured to hear that both the director and the assistant director were trained to deal with an asthma attack. Moreover, my daughterís preschool teacherís child had asthma, so she was completely aware of the signs.
Since my daughter has been blessed, and never had an asthma attack, I eventually stopped carrying the inhaler. When she started kindergarten three weeks ago, I didnít even bother to find out what procedures were in the event of an attack, nor did I give them an inhaler in case my daughter had an attack. Stupidly, I thought her asthma was obviously under control and if sheíd never had an asthma attack, then what was the point of the inhaler.
Listening to Rojasí heartbreaking story made me realize that Iíve been putting my childís life in jeopardy. On Monday, I marched into the school with my daughterís inhaler and found out what they do in case of an attack.
Every day I pray she never ever has one. But at least, now I am more aware than ever that we can never leave our guard down when it comes to this debilitating disease.
Iím more committed than ever to do all thatís in my power to fight for clean air.
Photo credit: Moms Clean Air Force