The saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” typically conjures thoughts of nature’s most dramatic and long-awaited season change. Like clockwork, after a winter spent largely indoors, daydreams of outdoor adventures, beach trips and gardening capture our imaginations. But for those in our community with a chronic lung disease like asthma, this time of year means one thing: a fight. Springtime is a fight for air.
Appropriately, the American Lung Association releases its State of the Air report every spring. The Birmingham metro consistently receives F’s in this survey of air quality. The dictionary defines a fight as “a struggle for a goal or an objective.” For asthma sufferers in Birmingham, the fight for healthy air is truly a struggle, one that goes beyond pollen-induced wheezing (though that is a nuisance). Rather, asthma sufferers like me are in a constant battle against Birmingham’s dirty air.
Born and raised in Birmingham, I was also diagnosed with severe persistent asthma at age five. (I am now 34, which makes my fight 29 years long.) I have lived abroad and in other states, but like many of my peers I returned to Birmingham because I believe this is a city on the rise. And I believe that my struggle is a part of the solution and will help lead to a better Birmingham. For many of you reading this, you probably can’t imagine how my struggle affects you. You cannot see through my words and understand why my fight matters to you. Well, it does.
If you met me — and many of you have through my dog Honey Belle, who won the Beneful® dog park for Alabaster — you would never know that every day I take four pills and require two different steroid inhalers; receive immunotherapy on a bi-weekly basis; and have to get an injection monthly in my doctor’s office. I have participated in numerous drug studies over the past five years to help me stay “healthy” while simultaneously providing much-needed data for developing medications.
I live a relatively normal life: I run, I eat healthy, and I take my dogs hiking at Oak Mountain every chance I get. But inside, most days, I struggle to simply breathe. Contrary to pop culture clichés, asthma is not a wheeze-disease that flares up during exercise. It is a chronic lung disease. Nine people die every single day due to asthma. Since 1980, the death rate for children under the age of 19 has increased by nearly 80 percent.
The truth is, I could be your daughter, sister, friend or co-worker. Since the incidence of asthma is directly linked to poor air quality, chances are you or someone you love has been or will be affected by asthma at some point in your life — especially if you continue to live in Birmingham and breathe our dirty air.
Clean air will not eradicate asthma. It will, however, reduce the number of times each year people like me will have to take a large doses of prednisone to keep our lungs from failing. It will reduce the number of days I miss work because I can’t leave my house due to poor air quality. And it will undoubtedly reduce medical and prescription drug costs — an unfair tax on asthma sufferers. We deserve better, Birmingham. I deserve better.
As long as Alabama continues to fail basic air quality measures like those reported in the State of the Air report, I will continue to fight to breathe clean air. Will you stand with me as a Voice for Clean Air?