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Walter S., RI

It’s not easy for me to talk about how an asthma attack took my young daughter’s life. Because I don’t want another family to have to ever have to endure our pain, keeping Morgan’s memory alive sometimes means reliving the unspeakable heartbreak that still lingers from the day she was taken from us.

Morgan was and will forever be the greatest treasure that my life has ever known. Her depth and ability to so effortlessly see the good in others were unmatched by her limited time on this earth. Once when stopped at a gas station, Morgan asked me for twenty dollars. When I realized that she had taken the money and given it to a couple of hitchhikers, I was quick to tell her that she had been scammed. Without hesitation, Morgan turned to me with her usual air of determination and resolve and said, "Dad it's not much to you, but it could make all the difference in the world to them."

My happy-go-lucky daughter with the enduring grace and kindness of Mother Theresa was right. She was a great observer of life and was truly a joy to be around. She had big dreams, which I had no doubt that she would achieve. Yet, Morgan was just a freshman at Santa Fe University of Art and Design when I received the call that turned my world upside down.

Our daughter had moved to the other side of the country to pursue her passion for the arts. Already a talented sculptor and painter, Morgan also showed great promise as a writer. Only 8 weeks into her first semester, Morgan had already fallen in love with New Mexico's vast stretches of open air and joined her classmates on a trip to a horse ranch. Overcome by the dander from the horses, Morgan suddenly found herself trapped 60 miles away from campus without her inhaler. Unable to breathe, Morgan fell into a coma and passed away at the hospital with her friends and family by her side in 2001.

Not a day goes by that I don't think about Morgan. Among so many other things, her life is a shocking example of just how misleading asthma can be. Morgan had never been hospitalized or rushed to an emergency room for her asthma until that fateful day. She was always able to manage her asthma as long as she had her inhaler within reach. No one could have ever expected a carefree trip to a ranch to result in such devastating consequences.

I'm fighting for air, because I am fighting for my daughter's memory. Air pollution among other asthma triggers is deadlier and far more serious than most even realize. We must do everything we can to ease the burden on those who suffer from lung disease, because life is often more fragile and brief than we could ever imagine.

First Published: June 10, 2013

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