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Clearing the airways

Everyday Children’s Community Asthma Initiative helps patients like Marquis Lewis manage their asthma.

For 17-year-old Marquis Lewis, it begins with a hacking, relentless cough. His heart pounds, his neck strains and his chest sinks in—all signals of his lungs’ desperate fight to capture even the smallest bit of air. “It gets real tight,” Marquis says, pointing to his chest. “It’s like I’m fighting just to breathe.”

Marquis, a Children’s Hospital Boston patient, is describing an acute asthma attack—a scenario that’s all too familiar to seven million U.S. children. The most common chronic childhood disease, asthma causes a narrowing and swelling of the airways in the lungs. With proper management and the correct use of medication, children with asthma can usually live normal, active lives. But it has no cure, and when it’s not kept under control, it can be debilitating and even fatal.

Marquis was 18 months old when he experienced his first attack. It was a bout so severe that he was hospitalized in Children’s intensive care unit (ICU) for two days. For the Lewis family, these early attacks were only the first chapter in what would become a long and grueling cycle of sleepless nights, absent school days and financial and emotional strain.

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