Lydia R

Lydia R., CA

The last time I ever saw my beautiful 15-year-old daughter Steph was when she left for school five and a half years ago. When the school called just a few hours later to tell me that Steph had been taken to the hospital, I was on the other line with my husband. Not knowing my husband had also answered his call waiting at that very moment to receive the same news from my daughter’s school, I was startled when I returned to the line to hear him shout, “Get to the hospital now! They just took Steph!”

Too upset to drive, a friend rushed me to the hospital. My hopes that it was just a broken arm or leg were stolen from me when the chaplain called demanding that we hurry, because "it wasn't looking good."

My life went into slow motion the moment we pulled into the hospital parking lot. I remember jumping out of the car while it was still moving and feeling alarmed by the number of officials from my daughter's school crowded around the entrance.

My friend yelled to me, "Don't think the worst; stay positive!"

As I was running towards the door, I remember yelling back, "How can I not think the worst? It was the chaplain!"

I was led to a private room and will never forget seeing my husband leaning against the wall with his face in his hands crying. When he looked up to tell me, "She's gone…my Stephanie is dead," I dropped to me knees. My whole world fell apart in that moment.

We later learned that Steph had been chatting with friends in the shallow end of the pool when she collapsed overcome by an acute asthma attack. Because her teacher was away in her office talking on the telephone, three students were left to pull her limp body out of the pool. Knowing Steph had asthma, her friends ran to the locker room to grab her inhaler but found that the door was locked.

No one should die from asthma, especially our children. My daughter deserved better that day. The gross negligence that transpired remains unforgivable.

Overcome by anger and grief, I shut myself off from the outside world for three and a half years. I neglected to care for my then 14-year-old son, household and husband. I felt like I was trapped in a very dark place.

Yet for some miraculous reason, I managed to care for our 9-month-old baby girl. Caring for Isabella was all that I could bring myself to do. She was my reason to get out of bed every day. She was our saving grace.

Wanting to be a better mother for my young daughter and now 20-year-old son, I sought out a support group and got involved with the Lung Association. I have since dedicated my life to raising awareness about asthma and organ donation.

I never want another family to have to go through the pain we have endured the past several years. I want people to know that healthy air saves lives. Every breath is a gift that cannot be taken for granted. Please help me honor my daughter's memory by joining me in standing up for healthy air.

First Published: July 18, 2012

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