Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Just a personal note

I would like to thank all of the folks who offered prayers and sent well-wishes Monday for my birthday and yesterday for my son. Early yesterday morning, my son was admitted to the hospital with breathing problems, throat soreness and vomiting. Later that afternoon, he was diagnosed with asthma.

That was not a surprise to me. As I may have mentioned before, I grew up with asthma. My condition was serious but not acute. I was able to play baseball competitively and enjoy a normal childhood. My worst attack happened when I was five years old and my last severe attack happened when I was 13 years old.

It used to be that having asthma was a stigma in society, but with the success of athletes like Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Jerome Bettis, as well as advances in medical technology, it has become a controllable disease that is not as debilitating. It is still a serious disease though and those who suffer from it have to be disciplined in their treatment.

Asthma is the number one reason for absenteeism in our schools and is one of the fastest growing diagnoses in the United States, especially among African-American children. As a state legislator, I successfully passed legislation to allow children with asthma to maintain their inhaler with them in school to fight sudden attacks. I also served on the Mississippi House of Representatives Asthma Task Force and helped write the state's Asthma Action Plan.

I have been a speaker at Camp Wheez-Away, a summer retreat for children with asthma and have been active with the local American Lung Association for years. My personal experience drove me to be active in this cause and now I have another reason to remain active.

I have met parents throughout the years who have lost their children because of asthma, and that is something I have to keep in my mind as I go through this journey with my son. However, as my friend, who is an expert in this field and an asthma sufferer herself, reassured me, now that you know, things will get better.

My son is an active six year old. Hopefully, he will grow up like his dad and overcome his asthma as well.