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Asthma Sufferers Should Know About Peak Week

7 comments, 571 views, posted 3:59 pm 20/09/2019 in Health by evolution
evolution has 14036 posts, 6889 threads, 0 points
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My Wife Died Of An Asthma Attack. If She'd Known About 'Peak Week,' She Might Have Survived
September 18, 2019 | Peter DeMarco |

There was no way for Laura to know that her life would end so suddenly that day in September. She’d gone to a concert a few nights before with friends, things were busy at her new job at Harvard, and she’d just pumped some serious iron at the gym. Her severe asthma attack came on so suddenly, and randomly, it seemed.

But that day — September 16 — was in fact not so random. And if Laura or I had been in possession of one small but important piece of information when her attack struck three years ago, she might still be alive.

There’s one week each year that traditionally sees the most asthma attacks in the country, asthma doctors say, and it comes like clockwork every third week in September. It’s called Asthma Peak Week, the very same week that Laura succumbed to her attack.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), asthma attacks spike throughout September because it’s high ragweed season, with ragweed pollen from 17 different species of the wild, green plant filling the air. Those allergic to ragweed begin sneezing and coughing — common hay fever. But ragweed can also trigger asthma attacks, like the fatal one Laura had.

September’s also a critical month because children returning to school are exposed to viruses, particularly rhinovirus, and other asthma triggers.

The third week in September is when these elements usually reach a crescendo. “It’s a perfect storm, so to speak,” says Dr. Sumita Khatri, a national asthma expert with the Cleveland Clinic and medical advisor for AAFA.

The problem is, I don’t believe many people with asthma know about Peak Week. Laura and I certainly didn’t.

What happened to Laura should never have happened to anyone: in the midst of a severe attack, she walked to CHA Somerville Hospital, only to find the door outside the emergency room locked. It was before dawn and she was alone, so she called 911 for help. Due to a shocking series of systemic and individual failures, that help never came. I wrote about Laura’s death first in The New York Times, then last fall for The Boston Globe Magazine, sharing her story to promote change so that no one else will again suffer as she did.

Laura didn’t die just because she had an asthma attack. But in the end, asthma is what took her life, much as it claims some 3,600 lives nationally each year — 10 lives each day. Had Laura known about the increased danger of suffering an attack during Peak Week, would she have taken different precautions that morning? I am left to wonder.

Would she have treated the first sign of her attack with more urgency? Would she have called me or someone else for help, instead of heading to the hospital on her own?

Asthma affects more than 25 million Americans — 1 in every 13 people — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Everyone knows someone with asthma, and more than likely, you know several people. It’s important for them to know about Peak Week, how they need to be that much more vigilant about carrying inhalers and making sure their home nebulizers are refilled.

Nothing is within your control until your asthma is back under control, so when an attack strikes, never be alone. Always tell someone. Laura’s story proves this more than anything. Maybe that person will end up driving you to the hospital; maybe they'll just calm you down, as asthma intensifies when one starts to panic. I hope you share this message as well with the people you love who have asthma.

Through the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, I’ve created a public service video to raise awareness this September. If you watch it, you will see me cry, as I have cried a thousand times these past three years for Laura. Her death, on this third anniversary, is as painful as ever for me.

There is no replacing the people you love in life — no replacing their laugh, their smile, their touch, their kiss. But there is remembering. So please remember Asthma Peak Week. Remember Laura Beth Levis, and her story. Help, just maybe, save someone else’s life by spreading the word.

Because I know Laura would really want that.

Editor's note: A version of this essay was originally posted on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s website. It was reprinted with permission.


Extra Points Given by:

elsels (5), REALITY (10)


4:40 pm 20/09/2019


Very sad, RIP Laura!

Good share!

5:05 pm 20/09/2019


I did not know about this. Thankfully, I think I am cured of asthma as I have not used any medication for ~15 years.

5:19 pm 20/09/2019


I didn't know that asthma was curable. What did you do, Flee?

5:35 pm 20/09/2019


i am not sure it is "cured", but you grow out of it.

TBH, I am not sure what I did, but I tend to link it to 1 of 3 things.

1. smoking weed - Although, I have smoked for many many years(no longer do) my asthma was the same for ~10 years of smoking it.

2. For years, I only smoked from a bong, which I think may have had the side effect of strengthening my lungs as you have to pull through water.

3. Maybe it was moving to Ottawa from my home town as I stopped using medication a few years after moving here.

I also still smoke cigarettes. If asthma is a build up of mucus in the lungs, maybe all this smoking reduced it in some fashion. I was diagnosed with it when I was 2, and by age 26-27 I stopped using any medication or inhalers. Typically i only had inhalers, and after the last one expired, which they never used to last that long, I decided to not bother getting any more. When I was younger (14 and under), it was bad. I had 5-6 different inhalers, and a respirator that I had to use daily for ~30 minutes.

I also grew up with cats. Since I moved to Ottawa I have been cat free. Maybe that played a role.

5:38 pm 20/09/2019


and coffee. By age 26-27 I was drinking lots of coffee. I still have 2-3 large cups a day.

8:08 pm 20/09/2019


Coffee is good for asthma, and ADD, and the health of others, and mental health. Coffee is perfect!

8:00 pm 21/09/2019


damn you september damn you to hell

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