Imagine how helpless you would feel if you had to watch your child struggle to stay afloat in the deep end of a swimming pool knowing you could not jump in to save him. That is how I felt every time one of my three children struggled to breathe during an asthma attack.
There were even moments when all three had attacks at the same time. It was frightening and overwhelming to spend so much time in the emergency room.
In 2005, our hometown in New England was named one of the top 10 worst cities for people with asthma. Despite the best possible medical care, our children's asthma kept getting worse. We believe air pollution was a major part of the problem. It was hard for my husband and me to see our children suffer. As an RN, I also knew I did not want them living a life on daily, oral steroids.
Our pediatric pulmonologist finally recommended relocating to a warmer, coastal climate with better air quality. We took a leap of faith and made the drastic 700-mile move to North Carolina.
While the relocation wasn't a cure, it dramatically improved our children's quality of life. We've been here a decade now, and asthma no longer greatly limits my children's lives. My oldest son Camryn is a senior in high school and is president of the student body. He is the first chair saxophone in the school honor band and was cast as the lead singing role for the school musical. My daughter Chiara is a sophomore in high school, sings in the Upper School choir and enjoys performing in school plays. My youngest son Luca is quite athletic and plays travel baseball.
None of this would have been possible if we had stayed in a community where dirty air made breathing a daily struggle. Our experiences have made my family passionate about sharing our story and advocating for strong healthy air protections.
That's why I became a certified asthma educator and began volunteering with the American Lung Association of the Southeast. My son Camryn even founded an allergy and asthma club at school.
After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency featured our family in a video highlighting the impact pollution has on children's health, President Obama invited us to visit the White House! We were proud to stand by his side as he announced the Clean Power Plan, a national effort to clean up power plant pollution and address climate change.
It's a true moment of grace for me to be able to share my family's story, as it is my life's passion to ensure every child lives where the air is safe to breathe. I hope you will stand with me in letting your community, state and national leaders know that protecting the air we breathe is important to your family, too.