I am writing to you because I suffer from asthma and have had a significant recent ‘flare up’ while living in Kitimat.
My name is Sheena Cooper and I have been living in Kitimat since 2013. I grew up in Terrace so I am familiar with the area. I now run a licensed home daycare in Kitimat. We even purchased a home here as we enjoy living in the north. I am the mother of 2 small boys.
Generally speaking my asthma had been under control since I had moved here, until the week of March 9th, 2016. That day I went in to the hospital to get a nebulizer treatment as I had a wheeze and was coughing. I figured I would just need to go in for a ‘one time’ thing like I have done for the last 16 years. However, it became really bad again the night of Thursday March 10th. My husband and I had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night (Friday, March 11) as I could not stop coughing. I received another dose from the nebulizer at around 2 am. I opened my daycare Friday morning feeling okay, but I told all the parents that I was in the hospital and my asthma was acting up a lot. By 11 am I was becoming nauseous. I notified all parents that I needed to close the daycare immediately and head to the hospital. All parents rushed to pick up their children and my husband rushed me to the hospital. I was put on strong medications to deal with the acute asthma attack.
Things seem to have improved by Friday March 18. Then on Saturday night March 19, I couldn’t stop coughing for 45 minutes even after maxing out my inhaler. I went to the hospital and was very frightened as I could not breathe. It was extremely scary. My lungs were hurting so bad. My eyes felt like they were popping out of my head at every cough. It’s a very scary situation to be in and for your family to see. The doctor listened to my lungs and his words were “They sound horrible”. After I received the nebulizer treatment, I was not coughing much and felt much better. I was prescribed more strong medications.
Today, my lungs are still in really bad shape. I woke up multiple times last night coughing uncontrollably. This is not like my asthma at all. This is not normal at all. This is extremely serious.
What am I supposed to do now? Do I close my daycare, sell my home and move my family away? All because Rio Tinto won’t put scrubbers in? I found out today that Rio Tinto spiked their SO2 levels on March 9, which correlates to the day with when my asthma flared so significantly. Why is Rio Tinto allowed to do this to people?
My family and friends are extremely worried for me, and my clients are worried as well. My daycare currently has at least 4 families who work for Rio Tinto. Kitimat is always in need of more daycare spaces especially for children under 3 years old. My daycare is currently full and I have a waitlist that includes women who are currently still pregnant. I have extremely close bonds to the children in my care and I could not imagine having to up and move all of a sudden because of Rio Tinto being careless about the health of the people of Kitimat.
All I am asking is for the right to be able to BREATHE. That is all I want. I am sorry that it will cost Rio Tinto some money, but the health of Kitimat residents is more important. As a home daycare, I do not make that much money and I am currently the sole provider for our family. This last week has already cost me a few hundred dollars which is a lot to us.
I know I am not the only person in Kitimat to be struggling because of the high levels of SO2 in the air. One of the two year olds in my centre also suffers because of the SO2 levels in the air. There must be more of us suffering right now in Kitimat. And this is preventable.
Please bring forward my situation and concerns to all levels of government and to Rio Tinto.