Just Breathe

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Some of our most important body functions are autonomic – they just happen without our thinking about it. But if one doesn’t just happen anymore, we are plunged into a frightening world. Julia Shippey has this Perspective.

I never thought breathing was something I had to worry about. You breathe in air and you breathe out carbon dioxide, as simple as that. There’s nothing else to it. I took it for granted, being able to simply breathe every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day. But now it’s all I think about.

When I was in 6th grade not too long ago we were running the mile in PE class.I wasn’t running slow, but I wasn’t running fast either. I was somewhere in the middle. All of sudden I got short of breath. It felt like my airway was slowly closing and getting smaller. The air felt thin. Oxygen wasn’t getting into my lungs, instead I just breathed it back out. I panicked. Millions of thoughts ran through my mind. What do I do? Why am I not breathing right? What is happening? I stopped running and tried to take a deep breath, but it wasn’t working.

One of the P.E. teachers noticed I had stopped running and came rushing over to me. Everyone was telling me to just breathe, to take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. But I couldn’t. ‘Breathe,’ I told myself. ‘Just breathe.’ It took about one minute for me to get my breathing back under control.

I ended up getting an inhaler from my pediatrician and I used it almost every morning I had P.E. It helped, most of the time.


Asthma is defined as a condition in which a person’s airway becomes inflamed, narrow and swollen, and it produces extra mucus, which makes it difficult to breathe. I think that’s an understatement. When you can’t breathe, fear overtakes you. It becomes your biggest enemy. Your brain becomes overfilled with thoughts and emotions and you stop thinking about the world around you; you're frozen in a world of chaos.

Some asthma is life threatening. Mine isn’t and for that I’m thankful. I’m lucky. I realize now I can’t take anything for granted, not even something I do every single day. Everyone breathes. You are breathing right now and you probably aren’t even paying attention to it. You can’t take having clean water for granted, you can’t take being able to come home to a warm house everyday for granted, and you can’t take being able to breathe easily for granted.

With a Perspective, I’m Julia Shippey.

Julia Shippey attends Kent Middle School in Kentfield.