I do not often think about what it takes to breathe. Like blood pressure, the autonomic nervous system takes care of it, until it doesn’t. With allergy induced asthma, breathing can hurt, and an attack can happen without warning. Until recently I thought that my daughter, who is naturally athletic and hikes up mountains in the summer and skis down them in the winter, had not inherited this illness.
Mid-November, as our weather alternated between dry cold days and damp ones, I noticed that she occasionally wheezed. On a Friday, her school called repeatedly. My phone was off, as was my husband’s. Our daughter was having an asthma attack.
When I arrived, frantic, she was resting in a chair. She kept saying in between breaths that she was sorry. She looked pale. Her breaths came rapid and shallow and made a low whistling sound.
With the help of a nebulizer treatment at an urgent care facility, her breathing returned to normal. Finally, safely home, she curled up on the couch and dozed off and on for the rest of the day and well into the night.
She had a 5K scheduled for Sunday, less than 48 hours away. She had been training for two months.
I wasn’t sure if we should let her go, but we relented.
That Sunday my daughter arrived on the course wearing her bee wings, her team’s theme, along with an infectious smile. She had only been taking medication to help with her breathing for the last two days.
When they chose to walk, I wondered if she was struggling. When they ran fast or slow, I worried, not knowing whether her labored breathing was from running or from asthma. During the last lap, my daughter pushed herself, leaving her running buddy, her P.E. teacher, who had run each length with her, behind. At the finish line, my daughter was elated. We all were.
We do not know if the problems she had were due to a cold, or if like me, asthma will become a part of her existence.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Clean Air Act, I am grateful for the legislation that was created to protect the quality of the air we breathe, and for the major health, environmental, and economic benefits that the law has delivered. However, as Montanans are well aware, our climate patterns are changing and wildfires continue to burn hotter and wider, with air quality suffering as a result. Along with these new challenges are the multiple actions at the federal level to roll back regulations that protect public health from climate change and air pollution.
Climate change is already compromising the quality of the air we all breathe in Montana. We need more, rather than fewer, healthy air and climate protections.
When I think of the mountains my daughter wants to climb with her dad this summer, how she is a kid who looks at a peak and wants to see herself at the top, I hope she will be able to get there. I have no doubt that her legs and heart can do the job. My worry, as our Montana skies may be clouded with smoke, is whether her lungs will let her.
Romy LeClaire Loran lives in Kalispell.
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