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How The Climate Change “Hoax” Almost Killed Me

If you’ve been following the news lately, you know that the world of politics is in complete chaos. From the impending release on the Russia/Trump collusion report, the fight over the border wall, immigrant children being separated from their families, people in office being put in jail left and right, hush money payments, declaration of a national emergency when there is none, Cohen’s shocking testimony, meetings with North Korea, plus a ton of Democrats declaring they are running for president in 2020 and starting their campaigns.

It is definitely been a few months of bombshell after bombshell being dropped on Americans and more drama than in a season of the Bachelor. It is absolutely insane, and I know, I for one can barely keep up with it all. Then, of course, there is the concern regarding the President’s refusal to acknowledge the need for action to fight global warming that has already wreaked havoc around the world just this year, even backing up and encouraging more pollution from big oil companies and such contributing to the issue. Robert Phalen, Trump’s EPA appointee has even been quoted saying, “Modern air is a little too clean for optimum health,[Clean air] is not good for the children, whose lungs need a few irritants to learn how to ward them off.” This is upsetting for a lot of people, and especially for me because I have experienced some of the more dramatic effects it can have on vulnerable groups like myself. In fact, the whole global warming “hoax”, as the president calls it, put me in the hospital for nearly a month by causing symptoms of heart failure I already had to worsen dramatically in just a few days.

This not only is a threat to the USA, and it’s vulnerable population, but it’s a threat that impacts everyone around the world. People are still refusing to open their eyes to how serious this problem is, and that it is an immediate threat to everyone around the world. The POTUS said in 2015 during his campaign “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” I say to him and others denying the existence of global warming and climate change, to simply look back on this past year’s weather.

Now, we’ve already seen what scientist have been telling us would happen if we didn’t take action to stop the destruction of our Ozone layer. This past Hurricane season, where there were at least three or four major hurricanes that hit North America within just days of each other. There were wildfires in California, extreme temperatures in the north this winter, and heat in the south. There have been storms, droughts, floods, earthquakes, and all the devastation that that has caused what we’ve seen just this past year. This is simply the beginning of what will continue to happen around the world without emergency action to dramatically change our ways in time. Even before the sudden outbreak of natural disasters, we already were suffering. Those who are not as healthy as others are especially vulnerable to the effects of pollution in the air we breathe. I have personally have experienced just how much these conditions alone can affect those around us or even ourselves.

I will give you a brief backstory so you can understand exactly how I got to this particular point in my life. I was born at a mere one pound, fourteen ounces at just thirty weeks old. I had a rough and dramatic start in life. I was born with a congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot, which is basically a combination of different heart defects. I can’t tell you which defects without looking it up because I still don’t understand it myself. I have been living with this for my entire twenty-one years.

The first four months of my life were spent in the NICU, the newborn intensive care unit, where I underwent open heart surgery to repair my heart. I was released four months later with a mom that now had to be my nurse. She had to take care of my colostomy bags, feeding tubes, medications, and the whole shebang. When I was two they implanted a pacemaker and I have had one ever since. I am completely dependent on it and still need it to pace me at 40 beats per minute.

Another seven years went by and I started to feel tired and short of breath, it felt like someone was sitting on my chest all the time. My heart rate stayed at a solid 60 bpm no matter if I was running or sleeping. It’s a horrible feeling. I always felt like I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. That is when my doctor said it was time to replace my pacemaker for the first time. They also needed to repair my pulmonary valve because it was leaking, so they decided to do everything in one fell swoop.

I was just nine years old at the time and it was my first time having a surgery that I could remember. Having open heart surgery at nine years old was pretty terrifying. I did not know what was going to happen or really even understand the risks involved. All I knew was that I would be spending a week in the hospital. I knew it was a big surgery and that it was going to hurt, just how much though, I didn’t know.

 

I would have to say that the worst part of the whole thing was the recovery process, I had basically had my chest sawed open, right through the bone. My recovery went well, though it was quite long. It was a full six months, and I had to miss a month of school at the beginning of it. I knew I would eventually need my valve replaced again when I got older but I didn’t really think about it.

In 2015, my family picked up and moved from my lifelong home in Minnesota to Arizona smack dab in the middle of my senior year in high school. There was a pretty dramatic temperature difference, and heat and heart problems don’t mix well. Summers are very difficult for me.

In 2017, I started not feeling well again, I was short of breath and tired all the time, and had that same heavy chested feeling, I constantly felt like I needed a deep breath but couldn’t.

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Next thing I knew, I had caught Mother Nature’s allergic reaction to car exhaust and cow farts. I started feeling short of breath and tired again, I at first ignored it. I have asthma, so just blamed that. I was used to feeling so short of breath just from the pollution in the Phoenix air, which was so bad we had pollution warnings.A pollution warning happens when the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups like infants, people with asthma, elderly people, and so on.

I was miserable, but there was nothing I could do about it except to stay inside and out of the toxic air. I could smell the toxic chemicals whenever I went outside. I never experienced that before because Minnesota does not have a lot of big factories close to residential areas, and there are millions of trees to filter the air. It was absolutely terrible in Phoenix. The higher temperatures caused by climate change did not do wonders for my heart either.

When it finally got bad enough, I started to second guess if it was something other than the air quality and my asthma. I called my cardiologist and they did a remote check on my pacemaker. They called me back an hour later and told me I was in stage 2 heart failure, at age twenty.

That meant surgery, and soon. They told me what to watch for and to go to the emergency room if I had worsening symptoms, then we set up an appointment to meet with my cardiologist to discuss next steps in a couple of weeks. I never made it to that appointment.

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Post-Surgery

The heat was so bad and the air so unbreathable, that within five days I went from just being tired and out of breath, to dizzy and so short of breath and tired that I literally could not get off the couch. It took me twenty minutes to get the strength to reach over and grab my phone to call my mom. I was that weak. This was highly unusual for me and quite a dramatic increase in symptoms.

I ended up at Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH) in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit that same day and was there for three full weeks. The first week was filled with IV medication. The second week we tried to replace my valve in the catheterization laboratory and that did not work so we had to wait for them to schedule open heart surgery, the third week was spent in recovery.

The moral behind the story is that even before we started seeing the dramatic effects of climate change, which wouldn’t surprise me if it had anything to do with the heat that summer, we were already being affected by the pollution in the air. Had there not been so much pollution in the air, I would have realized much sooner that something was wrong. I also think I wouldn’t have had such a dramatic health turn around in just a few days. My body was working so hard to keep pumping blood and trying to get oxygen to the rest of my body that it basically couldn’t keep up–and shut down.

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Getting up and walking Post-Surgery

The quick response and amazing care I received from my doctors and surgeons at Phoenix Children’s Hospital are what kept my body going. It scares me to think of how quickly things went from bad to requiring hospitalization and surgery in just less than a week.

 

People are already getting so sick from the air we breath and the extreme weather variations we have been having. Climate scientists say that in a matter of just 12 years, we will not be able to reverse the effects of global warming. An immediate and dramatic change needs to happen right now. We can not keep debating over the existence of climate change. To those people who deny this fact and refuse to take action to make a change or support those trying to, you are signing not only sick kids’ and vulnerable adults death certificate, you are also signing it for your future children, grandchildren, and even for the children today who will be adults living with the consequences we are already experiencing tenfold.

How do we combat this? How do we avoid a future of chaos and illness caused by fossil fuels? There are ways we can change our future. It is something you yourself can do and you do not need any money to do it. Simply support those in our government who want to enact the Green New Deal by voting in the upcoming elections.

I’ve heard the argument that the Green New Deal is going to end up taking away our cars and buses, or that it is going to be really expensive to do. Neither of those statements is remotely true. First, no one is going to take away your car, cars are will just be changing. Cars will be run on batteries instead of gasoline, buses will be like light rails, and we will use alternative energy sources such as solar energy to get our electricity. Second, this change is going to be affordable. Yes, it will take some money to get started along with a few changes. However, those who came up with this deal know that people can’t make the change if they can’t afford it. We already pay taxes but things will simply be moved around and changed to make it work. It is like when you need to not buy one thing at a store but then you need to buy something different. It’s a trade. Now I do not know the exact details of how they will do it, but you won’t be spending large amounts of money to do this like everyone thinks.  The plan factors in the finances of the people and the country. If it were not realistic and possible to enact, it would not be supported by people such as Bernie Sanders, who care very much about people not having to choose between two necessities because of money.

 

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Post-Surgery Scar

 

It is imperative to support those wanting to save our planet. If we don’t, there will just continue to be more natural disasters and more people like me who will end up in the hospital from air pollution and illnesses or injuries caused by extreme temperatures. Will, you sit back and do nothing now to stop this, or will us and our future children pay a much greater price later after it’s already too late? Support the Green New Deal as we head closer to the next presidential election.

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