Leia Schwartz Tackling Asthma in Miami

December 24, 2009

Leia Schwartz Tackling Asthma in Miami

"Hi my name is Leia and I'm 13 years old. I have severe asthma. Unfortunately, I know what a spontaneous pneumothorax is. It's a collapsed lung. I know this because when I was turning 6 years old my lung collapsed because of my asthma. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital in critical condition fighting for my life. Even the Doctors were surprised when I got to go home; I know because they told my dad they didn't think I was going to make it."

This is the introduction to a speech written by Leia that she gives when speaking on behalf of the American Lung Association and Camp Boggy Creek, a camp founded by Paul Newman and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf she attends for children with chronic or life threatening illnesses. Leia has been diagnosed with severe recurrent life threatening asthma and her odyssey began when she was first hospitalized at the age of 6 months and continues today with frequent ER visits and hospital stays lasting up to 2 weeks at a time each.

Because of the severity of her asthma and the fact that it is exercise-induced, Leia isn't allowed to participate in activities like other children. She can't do PE. She often has to sit and watch the other children as they go outside to play. Because of this, socialization with the other children is difficult and she often feels different, as if she's being punished because she has asthma. 

When she goes on trips that require a lot of walking, Leia sits in a wheelchair, as the walking would be too much for her. People pass and look at her in the wheelchair, sometimes seeing her stand, and don't understand what could possibly be wrong with her. Her disease is not so obvious. Asthma is an "invisible disease". A silent killer. Statistics have shown that 12 people die every day from asthma related illnesses. More than once, Leia was almost one of those statistics. It is difficult to watch your child suffer. To see the fear on her face when she has coughing attacks and can't catch her breath. To hear the cries of pain when she has to get yet another medication intravenously that burns her veins. To watch the discomfort that results from the tubes in her nose that bring the oxygen that she so often needs. To make the frantic call to 911 because she can't breathe and is turning blue. To have the Doctors come into your ICU room over and over again saying "the next 24 hours are critical"...

This is why we as a family are so passionately involved with the
American Lung Association and "Blow the Whistle on Asthma," said her
father, David.

We would like you to keep in mind the following words written by Leia for her fund-raising speech:

"Please help raise money so kids like me don't get sick and die."

The greatest impact is on our children. For them, we need to raise the money to find a cure.