When It Comes to Clean Air, I Am My Sister’s Keeper

BY ON February 20, 2012

Lamar and Ronnie TylerI remember when my son was first diagnosed with asthma. I was a single mom living over 600 miles away from my family and friends. He was in the 2nd or 3rd grade, and it seemed like he was always getting sick.

The nurse would call me at work and say:

“Please come pick up your son. He has a low grade fever and he threw up on the playground.”

Of course any child that throws up at school has to go home. So, I had to leave work to pick him up (it took about 30 to 45 minutes to get to his school). When I picked him up and took him home he was fine. No fever. No symptoms of sickness. No more throwing up. I would give him over the counter medicine for allergies or colds. But nothing really helped.

This went on for weeks. I had to leave work to pick up a child that I knew would not be sick when we got home. I began to get frustrated. I was frustrated with the nurse.

“Can’t he stay. He’s not sick and he is just going to be playing when we get home.”

Her hands were tied; she had to follow school policy.

Then I began to get frustrated with my son.

“Is something going on at school? Are you doing this to get out of going to class? Is someone bothering you?  You have to stop this.”

Finally, the doctor told me that my son had asthma. Asthma! I never knew anyone with asthma, and I never would have guessed his symptoms were caused by asthma.

As I reflect on those times, I think about how blessed I was, and how my situation could have been worse. You see, I had a salaried position and an understanding manager. She did not mind me leaving work early to pick up my son. I could take my laptop and finish my work from home. But what about the single mom or parent that does not have the luxury to leave work without worrying about decreased pay, or even worse, being fired? Can you imagine being told that if you leave early one more time you will be fired? According to CDC, asthma is the #1 cause for missed school days and accounts for more than 14 million missed school days each year.

I was also blessed because I had very good health care benefits through my employer. I was able to take my son to his primary care physician where he was finally diagnosed with asthma. But what about the parent that does not have health insurance? Will their child have to suffer with this condition until they finally end up in the emergency room? As reported by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation: Each year, asthma accounts for more than 10 million outpatient visits and 500,00 hospitalizations.

Yes, we were blessed. It could have been worse for my son and me. But being blessed does not keep me from being concerned about others that are not as fortunate, and about my community as a whole. Whether our kids have asthma or not, or whether we live in an area with the highest pollution levels or not, we all have the responsibility to do everything in our power to minimize the impacts of asthma–on our kid’s health–and on our families’ finances (the annual cost of asthma is estimated to be about $18 billion per year).

We can start by joining the fight for everyone’s right to breathe clean air. Because even though asthma is not always caused by air pollution, it can certainly be triggered by it. With this being an election year, it is more important than ever to show that we are united as a community and that we will not support any politician that plans to remove the air quality standards that force polluters to take actions that reduce toxic emissions.

Asthma touches my family and yours. Please join the Moms Clean Air Force and show that as a community that we are taking a stand against air pollution.



TOPICS: African-American Community, Asthma, Motherhood, Pollution, Schools