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A South Dakota woman paid a visit to her mother in Salt Lake City for the holidays while her husband is deployed in the Middle East. She suffers from adult onset asthma, and one of the notorious Salt Lake Valley winter inversions caused an acute asthma attack while she and her mother and sister were shopping at a local grocery store.

The attack caused the woman to drop to the floor while gasping for breath. Her mother dumped her purse on the floor in search of her inhaler. It took her a while, but she found it and was able to administer three puffs which restored her daughter’s ability to breathe.

A number of people were standing in a line right next to where the woman fell, and not one of them asked what was happening or offered any help. Really? Assistance is not difficult to offer and the woman knows this first hand – she had a similar attack at a store in Mississippi – she passed out and when she woke up, three military service members were giving her CPR.

One critical thing is the ability to recognize an acute attack as it is happening. One resource, offers the following on acute attacks:

The signs of an acute attack may include continual coughing, along with breathlessness, a blue tint to the lips, and a closed feeling in the chest. A person having a severe asthma attack (also known as status asthmaticus) may have trouble speaking in complete sentences without running out of breath and may feel breathless even while lying down. During an acute attack of asthma, an individual may constantly change positions, hunching or stretching in an attempt to free the airways.

As for what to do, the site offers the following:

Generic Proventil HFA may be used to head off a severe attack, but in some cases it may not work. Severe asthma treatments often include injected epinephrine, and in the worst cases, a ventilator may be necessary. Because status asthmaticus can result in respiratory failure and even death if it is not treated immediately, this condition is considered a medical emergency. If you or someone in your care is having a severe asthma attack, follow the acute asthma treatment guidelines recommended by the doctor and seek immediate medical care.

In addition to the foregoing, CPR is an option in a crisis as demonstrated by the Good Samaritans in Mississippi. What happened there highlights all that is good in terms of looking out for your fellow humans; what happened in Salt Lake City highlights the indifference to our fellow humans that so often rules the day. We all need to step up when the situation requires it.

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