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Erica H.

I am 30 years old and I have a chronic lung disease called Nonspecific Interstitial Pneumonia (NSIP). I came down with this disease at the age of 26. 

NSIP is a very debilitating chronic lung disease that is thought to be autoimmune related. My immune system is overactive, which causes inflammation in my lungs. If the inflammation can’t be controlled, it leads to permeant scarring of my lungs. My lung function has now been stable for over a year; however, I am now left with only 38% lung function which leads me to the importance of the quality of the air we breathe. I cannot stress enough the importance of breathing in clean air.

Breathing is already a challenge for me and other patients with respiratory illnesses; however, it makes our struggle a little easier to be able to breathe in air that’s not polluted. For example, I was reading about how the Trump administration plans to roll back cleaner cars standards and that scares me because I’ve rode behind some vehicles that have terrible fumes. You can clearly see dirty smoke coming out of the back of them, and it makes my nose and chest burn. It almost feels as if I am choking.  I violently begin to cough. A lot of times, I end up turning off my air conditioner when this happens, so I can try to stop the smell from coming in my car.

Also, when we have bad air quality days, it is so hard for me to breathe. I wheeze all day. If I have to get out for some reason on a bad air quality day, those days require so much more effort. By the time I get where I am going, I am completely drained.  I attend St. Thomas wellness center in Murfreesboro where I’ve met a lot of lung patients that feel the exact same way. 

In my opinion, I believe a lot of manufacturers that have high pollution are the cause of a lot of illnesses and death. My dad worked in a plant for over 30 years and he is 60-years-old. He has suffered a stroke, cancer, and now he is on dialysis fighting kidney failure. Many of his former co-workers have suffered the same illnesses, which have led to an early death for some. I don’t feel this is just coincidental.

When people have healthy lungs, they tend to take them for granted. I say this because, I did. I remember living those 26 years without lung disease and I never thought about factors that can have an adverse effect on how we breathe. You never know what could potentially happen to you, so I am asking you to take a moment and put yourself in mine and many other lung patients’ shoes and really understand the importance of the Clean Air Act that was put in place to reduce our exposure to harmful pollution.

First published: September 13, 2018

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