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Tanya J., MT

My two sons Remington, 4, and Ruger, 3, look healthy and perfect, so it’s hard to explain to other parents, teachers and even medical professionals just how sick they have been for their entire lives. It seems my boys have been battling one respiratory infection after another for as long as I can remember.

When my oldest was just three months old, the hospital sent him home with a nebulizer machine. I'm a mom, not a nurse, and it's an understatement to say that I felt overwhelmed. Remington would get better and then have a setback. This happened over and over again.

Ruger was born prematurely and when he was finally able to go home, he continued to have medical challenges, just like his brother. At three months old, he had his first hospital admission for lung-related problems. Although the doctor told us he would eventually outgrow it, he hasn't yet and we're still waiting.

Just trying to keep up with all of the medical terms, tests and possible diagnoses for both Remington and Ruger has been an enormous challenge. It's been a wild journey. In the past year, the boys' conditions have stabilized, although it's still a work in progress. Both have been diagnosed with complex respiratory issues and there are also genetic concerns. In addition Ruger has bronchomalacia, a weakness and narrowing of the walls of the bronchial tubes of the lungs, along with laryngomalacia, a softening of the tissues of the larynx near the vocal cords.

I worry about how the air quality in our region affects not just my boys but all children. Even though my sons' respiratory issues may be more severe than the average child, every child deserves the right to breathe clean air. Wildfires and smoke are an ongoing problem here.

Last summer when the fires were bad, Ruger had to stay inside by himself when his friends went outside to play during preschool, which felt so unfair to him. Rather than keeping him home on bad air days, we've convinced the teacher to monitor air quality first before deciding whether the entire class can play outside. After all, thick, smoky air affects all children, not just my boys. I wish there was more we could do to prevent wildfires and the smoke-filled air that prevents kids from being able to play outside.

It's not really something we can control, but we can control other pollutants in our air coming from power plants, cars and trucks. We all know these toxins are harmful to our health. I support the EPA's efforts to clean up our air. It's the least we can do for our children.

First Published: August 2, 2013

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