Ellen Ceppetelli

My involvement with the American Lung Association® began quite simply with a phone call from a local physician for whom I had a great deal of respect. He asked if I would be interested in becoming a board member of the Vermont Lung Association®, as it was called in 1990. As a community health nurse who was interested in health promotion and disease prevention, the mission of the American Lung Association® matched my professional philosophy. I was looking for an opportunity to donate my time and my expertise in an area where I thought I could make a difference.

It wasn't until my first volunteer experience at Champ Camp for Kids with Asthma that I remembered that I had a connection to asthma that I had forgotten. Tim, an eight-year old boy who appeared in our cabin after participating in a soccer game, triggered the memory. He had intercostal retractions that were evident between the ribs of his slender body. He was so concerned that he was going to miss the next activity because of his struggle to "catch his breath." I told him that he could return once he had a treatment and his breathing had improved---his smile stretched from ear to ear. "You see', he squeaked out, "one day at school, I collapsed with ribs like these. Since that day, my teachers are so afraid that will happen again that they don't let me go out for recess anymore."

After he returned to the fun, I thought of Tommy, a brown eyed ten-year-old with the curliest eyelashes you've ever seen. He was a frequent resident of the pediatric ward of a large medical center in Massachusetts where I was a new nursing faculty member. Tommy rarely went out for recess because he missed more school when he attended. He was either in our hospital with bronchitis or pneumonia or at home recuperating. It was 1971, and I learned quickly that there were few treatment options available that would allow kids with asthma to be actively involved in physical activity.

It is these children who remind me why I have committed my time to the American Lung Association®. In the 30 years that separate Tommy and Tim, there has been incredible progress in the diagnosis and treatment of children with asthma. However, it is obvious from Tim's experience that we have a long way to go in educating teachers, health professionals, and families how to manage asthma so kids can be kids.