Asthma Allies Here To Help: Introducing Romelia Rodriguez Walters
I am Romelia Rodriguez Walters and I am a certified asthma educator. When people learn about what I do in the community, the first question they ask is "Do you have asthma?" I carried an inhaler during a few of my elementary school years but never was diagnosed with asthma. Once, when I first moved to Albuquerque, I was running and became short of breath. It happened a few times, but for only two weeks, and I have never experienced that scary sensation again. So my final answer: No, I do not have asthma. But I do know someone who does.
I have a nephew in high school. Since the day he was born, he has suffered with severe asthma. Of course, we didn't know it was asthma. He made gurgling sounds when he cried, then made no sound at all before he turned blue. We immediately rushed him to the ER where we were told that he had some viral infection. They treated his symptoms, and sent my sister home with a nebulizer. This worked for about two weeks, then we were back at the ER.
Someone said it might be asthma, but no diagnosis. He was given more breathing treatments, more medicine, and sent home again. At first, we were terrified and confused, and not really sure how to help him during an asthma episode. My poor sister became a regular at our local emergency room. Our family eventually learned how to follow an asthma action plan, and we each had a role to play when it came to caring for my nephew.
As he got older, he had fewer symptoms and asthma attacks. When he was eight, he visited me one summer in Albuquerque, and experienced his first camping trip in the woods of New Mexico. He actually led us on a mile-high hike like he had been doing that all his life! As I watched him trek on ahead me, I was in awe. This was the same boy that I saw turn blue on more than one occasion. The same boy that watched life happen outside his front door and not able to enjoy it because of his asthma. And look at him now! I think it was at that moment that I decided I wanted to help people with asthma achieve what he had: an active, normal life.
When I moved to New Mexico from Texas nine years ago, I intended to enter medical school and become a doctor. A family tragedy caused me to put my dream on hold and focus on helping my family and myself through a couple of years of healing. After this very emotional process, I enrolled in graduate school to see if I was focused enough to endure the rigorous schedule of medical school. After a successful first semester, I felt ready and began to get back on track with my life's ambition.
Then tragedy struck again. Once more, I placed my dream on hold. That was five years ago, and it's been there since. I still entertain the idea of medical school, but haven't figured out how to make that idea a reality. While I continued to figure this out, I began working as a health educator. I worked for two national non-profits in this capacity and learned a lot about program development, adult education, teaching strategies, and overall administration. This eventually led to becoming a co-founder of Asthma Allies, a non-profit organization that focuses on asthma education and program development.
My organization is statewide in New Mexico and allows me to meet and work with people from all walks of life. I have a great partner in this arena - Gerri Rivers, a fellow asthma educator and blogger for MyAsthmaCentral. I don't see myself undertaking this endeavor with anyone else but her. She has asthma, and yet, she manages to take on all of life's challenges, one breath at a time.
Our sole purpose is helping people with asthma learn to manage their disease and live a normal, active life. I want them to have what my nephew has: a chance to do anything he sets his mind to without second guessing his physical capabilities. Our organization has helped many people achieve this and continues to change lives everyday.
I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to help people manage their asthma. I am also blessed to have a very supportive family that understands how important our organization is to me, my business partner and our state. My husband, Matthew, and I are celebrating our ten-year anniversary this September and we are the proud parents of three wonderful children: Meagan, 16; Seth, 4; and Sarah, 1. By default, immediate family members are volunteers for our organization. They help stuff envelopes, set up equipment for seminars, help at health fairs -- you name it, they do it! It's an awesome feeling knowing that they help us achieve our mission to help people with asthma manage their disease.
Now that you know a little about me and where I come from, I also want to let you know that I look forward to the opportunity to help you. I welcome your thoughts, questions, and challenges you face every day living with asthma. I will do my best to help you navigate through the vast information available about asthma and answer some of those tough questions about its management. I thank you in advance for the chance to help you breathe easier.