Anthony Shadid, Asthma Death

From the front page of the New York Times today, February 17, 2012: Anthony Shadid, a New York Times Reporter, Dies in Syria. His cause of death: a fatal allergic and asthmatic reaction. From the New York Times story:

"But Mr. Hicks said that Mr. Shadid, who had asthma and had carried medication with him, began to show symptoms as both of them were preparing to leave Syria on Thursday, and the symptoms escalated into what became a fatal attack. Mr. Hicks telephoned his editors at The Times, and a few hours later he was able to take Mr. Shadid’s body into Turkey…

The assignment in Syria, which Mr. Shadid arranged through a network of smugglers, was fraught with dangers, not the least of which was discovery by the pro-government authorities in Syria. The journey into the country required both Mr. Shadid and Mr. Hicks to travel at night to a mountainous border area in Turkey adjoining Syria’s Idlib Province, where the demarcation line is a barbed-wire fence. Mr. Hicks said they squeezed through the fence’s lower portion by pulling the wires apart, and guides on horseback met them on the other side. It was on that first night, Mr. Hicks said, that Mr. Shadid suffered an initial bout of asthma, apparently set off by an allergy to the horses, but he recovered after resting. 

On the way out a week later, however, Mr. Shadid suffered a more severe attack — again apparently set off by proximity to the horses of the guides, Mr. Hicks said, as they were walking toward the border. Short of breath, Mr. Shadid leaned against a rock with both hands. 

“I stood next to him and asked if he was O.K., and then he collapsed,” Mr. Hicks said. “He was not conscious and his breathing was very faint and very shallow.” After a few minutes, he said, “I could see he was no longer breathing.” 

Mr. Hicks said he administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 30 minutes but was unable to revive Mr. Shadid."

I’m allergic and asthmatic. And I’m highly allergic/asthmatic to horses. This scenario is my worst nightmare: being far from home, allergic, asthmatic, emergency medications (where were they?); no one’s deeply aware of how to help me in that situation – no Medic Alert bracelet, no emergency action plan, no help.

But there’s another side to this extraordinary story and life and it's my highest hope for all of us with a serious medical condition. Anthony Shadid did not let his medical condition stop him from pursing what he loved most – being… “a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who covered the Middle East for nearly two decades at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Associated Press.” And that is incredible. 

From the New York Times: “In an email to The New York Times newsroom, Jill Abramson, executive editor, described him as 'our brilliant and beloved colleague.' 'Anthony died as he lived — determined to bear witness to the transformation sweeping the Middle East and to testify to the suffering of people caught between government oppression and opposition forces.'”

My heart goes out to his beloved family and colleagues.

And to you dear readers, a question: have you filled out an asthma action plan for your self or your loved one? Do you have carry it with you (in your phone, purse or bookbag)? Have you made safe friends at work or school who would know how to help you?

Here is the asthma action plan I have hanging in my kitchen from Confer with your medical provider about filling it out today.


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