We Can No Longer Take Breathing for Granted
Human lungs look like two hooded monks in pink billowy robes, bowing toward the heart that beats between them. If you could roll a pair out flat, the surface area of all those little bronchioles end to end would cover the area of a tennis court. A healthy set not only absorbs the oxygen our cells need to burn energy, it also rids the body of about 70 percent of its waste.
The lungs of an asthmatic—my lungs—are redder, more inflamed, and sometimes scarred. Dust, smoke, pollen, pollution, animal dander, stress, and infection can invite an attack. As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Salt Lake City and on my grandparents’ ranch in southern Idaho, all of the above triggered me. Especially animals. I couldn’t bear to be away from them, even though sneaking onto the bare back of my grandfather’s horse or dressing cats in doll clothes guaranteed a trip to the ER. I didn’t care; it was worth the price of admission.