By Elisa Batista, Moms Clean Air Force
When I was growing up in North Miami, the kids with asthma were easily identifiable. They often sat out in P.E. class due to wheezing — this scary, non-stop hissing sound as they were literally sucking air in. Our P.E. coach would coolly and quickly pull out the students’ inhalers from plastic sandwich bags so that they could take a puff on them.
Years later, I thumbed through a friend’s high school yearbook and noticed an “In Memoriam” page for a young attractive Hispanic woman. She died of an asthma attack in her sleep. It was the first time I realized how serious asthma could be; that it could claim a teenager’s life in the middle of the night.
According to numbers cited by Moms Clean Air Force, every day in the United States:
• 40,000 people miss school or work due to asthma.
• 30,000 people have an asthma attack.
• 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to asthma.
• 1,000 people are admitted to the hospital due to asthma.
• 11 people die from asthma.
That’s 4,000 deaths due to asthma each year, and asthma is a “contributing factor” for an additional 7,000 deaths per year.
Recently, I was visiting my sister in a hospital in New Hampshire when her roommate, a young woman with a Dominican Spanish accent, was wheeled in. She was being hospitalized for…asthma.
Asthma causes hospitalizations. Asthma can kill.
All of this was fresh in my mind when I was prescribed an albuterol inhaler last week. This is my first one in the 34 years I’ve been on this earth.
For a month, I’ve had a cough that alternates between a dry, hacking one and phlegm. They are both awful. Sometimes the coughing is so bad that I feel like I am going to vomit. For conference calls at work, I have to put my phone on mute so that I am not cutting off people with my coughing.
Unlike previous illnesses, I can feel this one in my chest. My doctor hasn’t been able to identify a cause, but she did hear static in my chest. So far, I have had a chest x-ray and have been prescribed a cough syrup with codeine, antibiotics, and an inhaler. With insurance, this cost me over $50, plus a lost day of work. I am a contractor so I don’t get paid for the days I don’t work.
I was nervous about the x-ray because I am the daughter of a smoker and manufacturing worker who brought home all kinds of hazardous chemicals, and I have lived by freeways all my life. Thankfully, the x-ray showed no suspicious dark spots in my lungs.