Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Eight-year-old Marco Cisneros only gets to play in the yard of his home in Calexico for a few minutes each day. He suffers from chronic asthma.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Marco Cisneros uses an oxygen mask to help him breathe.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Marco Cisneros relaxes on the sofa while his mom, Susana, watches over him.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Susana Tolentino holds her 8-year-old son Marco Cisneros. Experts are baffled at the high rates of ER visits and hospitalizations in Imperial County for asthma patients.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

For children with asthma in California, there is no place worse than Imperial County. They are far more likely than children in any other county to end up in the emergency room or hospitalized. Kids go the ER for asthma at a rate three times higher than the state’s average, according to the Department of Public Health.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Nurse-Practitioner Kim Calderon at the Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo in Brawley sees a high number of children with asthma in her daily rounds.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Norma Valenzuela, right, cares for her own children as well as her nieces and nephews, in their cramped one-story El Centro home. All of Norma's children suffer from varying forms of asthma, most of whom are confined to the indoors.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Teenager Jose Valenzuela plays the guitar in his El Centro home, unable to run around like most people his age because chronic asthma condition.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Norma Valenzuela holds a basket filled with the medications of just one of her children who suffers from asthma.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Brothers Esteban and Angel Valenzuela stand their dirt-covered yard.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Doctors and public health officials said that a combination of whipping winds, pesticide-tinged farmland dust and large numbers of low-income families lacking health insurance contribute to high rates of asthma hospitalizations and ER visits.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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High asthma rates in the Imperial Valley

By Anna Gorman

CALEXICO—As the relentless wind stirs up piles of dust and dirt and creates a gigantic funnel of haze in the vast and sweltering Imperial Valley, children like Marco Cisneros battle to breathe.

Marco wheezes and coughs and reaches desperately for his inhaler, but the medication doesn’t always give him the relief he needs. Often, his mother has to call 911.

Since being diagnosed with severe asthma six years ago, Marco, who lives in this border town east of San Diego, has visited the hospital nearly 50 times. He has been airlifted on several occasions. The illness has impacted much of his childhood, preventing him from playing sports, going to friends’ houses and attending school for days at a time. Blowing out the candles on his 8th birthday cake earlier this year, Marco had just one wish: “I just want to run.”

For children with asthma in California, there is no place worse than Imperial County. There, they are far more likely than any other county to end up in the emergency room and the hospital. Kids go the ER for asthma at a rate three times higher than the state’s average, according to the state Department of Public Health.

“Imperial stands out,” said Meredith Milet, an epidemiologist with the department. “There is obviously a disparity. … There is just a need for something to change. It should be possible for it to be different for the kids of Imperial.”

Severe childhood asthma is also a major problem elsewhere in California, including the smog-filled Central Valley. Heavily agricultural Fresno, Merced and Bakersfield, for example, all rank high in the nation for the worst cities for asthmatics. Imperial County is different because it leads the state for asthmatic children going to the ER and being hospitalized, but experts can’t pinpoint exactly why that is.

Doctors and public health officials said here a combination of whipping winds, pesticide-tinged farmland dust and large numbers of low-income families lacking health insurance contribute to high rates of asthma hospitalizations and ER visits. Whatever the reason, uncontrolled asthma and frequent hospital visits aren’t just an issue for those with the disease; many of the children are covered by Medi-Cal, meaning taxpayers often pay the tab for care.

1 Comment

  1. July 16, 2012, 8:39 am

    WOULDNT IT BE NICE IF SAN DIEGO WHICH IS BENEFITING MASSIVELY FROM IMPORTED IMPERIAL VALLEY WATER WOULD SET UP A FUND TO TAKE CARE OF THIS PROBLEM…..LESS WATER IN VALLEY MEANS THE VALLEY IS LOSING ITS LIFEBLOOD AND LIVELYHOOD, LEAVING BEHIND MORE AIR POLLUTION. THIS IS A CLASSIC DAVID VS GOLIATH

    By: CHARTWELL3@AOL.COM

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