Central Valley tackles high asthma rates

The Central Valley sees some of the highest asthma rates in California. Air pollution, agriculture, and heavy dependence on driving has created a situation has caused many to breathe uneasily.

In this story we got to Stockton, California and the San Joaquin County Asthma Coalition.

Sokhanda Or
Medical Assistant to Respiratory Specialist

So what I do first is, once I get all the system ready we actually tell the patient to take a deep breath in first from their mouth. Nothing from their nose, but mainly from their mouth. All of the breath that they breathe in, they’re going to place the tube inside their mouth and blow out really fast and push it as long as they can.

Anthony Presto
Outreach and Communications Representative
San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

In the San Joaquin Valley we have a very unique situation. And the reason why we have an air quality problem to begin with is due to the fact that we are almost completely surrounded by mountains. Our weather, topography, geography, it all works together in creating an air quality problem.

Sokhanda Or

So then I have the patient breathe in and then blow into it. And then here’s the graph

Teresa Washington
Diagnosed with Severe Asthma

I was about 35 years old and I quit breathing. Just got sick and quit breathing and I was taken to the hospital. They took me into X-Rays because they said it was pneumonia. Then they brought in a specialist and he said “Honey, you’re having a severe asthma attack.” And I said “I don’t have asthma.” “Well, you do now.”

This is my emergency.  This is my once in the morning and once at night. These here I take because sometimes I cough so hard I have to take muscle relaxers.

Julie Pontarolo-Evans
Director of Respiratory Services at St. Joseph’s Medical Center

Everyone‘s car dependent here. We don’t have a reliable public transportation system here. And then as far as the agriculture –the pollens. The pollens of all of the different things that we have a growing here. I’ve had several patients that, just because they lived here over a long period of time. They developed enough allergies to different things that then it affects their lungs and they develop asthma later on in life.

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The Central Valley spends an estimated $150 million a year in Asthma related hospitalization costs. The average cost per person is 27% percent more than the statewide average.

Anthony Presto

What we have is air pollution that tends to build up very quickly and doesn’t have anywhere to go. And this affects the whole populous, really. Our job is protecting public health and we try to do so by reducing air pollution.

Sokhanda Or

I was actually hospitalized back in 98 and they told me at first that I had bronchitis and pneumonia, so they treated me with some antibiotic and then afterwards somehow I got, became to be a patient here with Dr. Jerold Yecies. And he treated me with the allergies first and then my asthma.

Teresa Washington

I was taken to the hospital. They gave me 12 treatments and sent me home on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day I didn’t think I was going to live. The day after Christmas I was taken back to the hospital and hospitalized for three nights and the second night was the worst. I thought I was going to die. I was scared. I’ve never been scared like that, but I was really scared. I love to sing. I sing everywhere. I sang in the choir at the church I went to before I got married and I loved it. But, now, I can’t hardly hold a note. My air just, I’m raspy. Which ma not be a bad thing but it’s really hard. And I want to get involved in the choir at the church I’m in now, but I just don’t to be… You know, I told Joshua the choir director, I just don’t want to be a big disappointment because I never know when these attacks are going to come. Sometimes I’m sitting in church, I start coughing and we sit on the back row just because it’s close to the exit and I can get out.

Anthony Presto

Many residents don’t realize how many things the do on a daily basis that actually affect air quality. It obviously can be done by driving practices and it is mobile sources and cars and trucks and everything that’s on the road that has the biggest impact on air quality. Not everybody can ride the bus. Not everybody can carpool, but we hope that those people who can will actively try to do so. And that others will find other ways to reduce emissions.

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