Mothers have been given the titles “STRONG” and “RESILIENT”as if it’s a badge of honor. This is because of the hard work, dedication, ups, and downs, ebbs and flows of parenting. However, there are other titles that we take on that often go unnoticed. When it comes to our children we are willing to do whatever it takes to protect them and keep them safe. When it comes to our children, nothing is off limits, especially when something is threatening their health and life.
Being a single mom of 6 is not easy. I’ve had to wear several hats under that “MOM” title: “CHAUFFEUR”, “CHEF”, “DEFENDER OF GALAXIES”, “COACH”, “REFEREE” and more, but one of the titles I’ve had to wear a lot more recently is "Nurse". While I’ve never gone to school to be a nurse, I’ve had to learn quickly. I have children that suffer with eczema, a chronic skin condition caused by a combination of immune system activation, genetics and environmental triggers. They have creams that need to be administered daily to prevent outbreaks. I have children that suffer with asthma, a condition in which a person's airways become inflamed, narrow and swell, and produce extra mucus, which makes it difficult to breathe, which can also be caused and triggered by the environment. I have to know when they need their inhaler. These are conditions I’m aware of and I’ve learned to cope with, but when they have unexpected illnesses, I have to learn something new and add more to my already overflowing plate and when this “new thing” could also have been caused by the environment and air they breathe, it sets my “Environmental Justice Champion” mode into high gear.
Recently, I had the scare of one of my children suddenly becoming ill. My 17 yr old son was driving home with my 5 yr old son in the car with him and had a seizure while driving. The car was totaled. Luckily, neither of them incurred injuries from the accident. This was his first ever seizure, but he had several other seizures following that one before the paramedics arrived. After being transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital, he immediately “worked on” and eventually was put on a ventilator because he had aspirated. After he was placed on the vent, he was airlifted to a hospital that could treat pediatric trauma patients in a town an hour away. I stayed with him the entire time. I watched as the doctors did test after test. I watched them stand there with their minds blown. I heard them say that my son was a puzzle and that they couldn’t figure out why he’d had a seizure.
After they had given him cat scans, MRIs, blood tests, urine tests, EKGs, EEGs, and all the other letters of the alphabet and these tests came back normal or slightly abnormal, I insisted that they give him a heavy metals test. I stated that something caused this to happen to my son. They came back to tell me that his lead levels were normal and all other levels were raised but not concerning. Well ma’am and sir him breathing in vinyl chloride and methane from the more than 12 fossil fuel extractive industries in my community in southwest Louisiana is concerning for me.
I also know that the area on I10W where he had the seizure and wrecked was near Westlake Chemical, Biolab, and a large flare at Phillips 66 in Westlake. It wasn’t a first occurrence. In fact we encounter flares on a regular basis. I asked them if that high intensity, flashing fire could have triggered a seizure. They said yes, but there’s no way to definitively tell. I’d bet there isn’t. (Insert eye roll).
It was a difficult time those 5 days in the hospital. We left there with blood pressure medication and seizure medication but no real answer as to why he had the seizure in the first place. It was even more difficult for me because I had to take care of him while also caring for my other children. It was a scary time, and I felt very helpless. But I knew that I had to be strong for my son and for my other children.
This experience pushed me to continue fighting for a just system and a just transition. No mother should be called to the scene of an accident after her son has had a seizure while driving. It’s scary. Moms should also not have to deal with their children having other chronic health conditions caused by their environment, the air they breathe and the water that they drink.
Most of these things can be prevented if we had a just system in place that prioritized the health and well-being of our children over profits from dirty, polluting industries.
I know firsthand the struggles that families face when it comes to healthcare, education, and the environment. It is not enough to just talk about these issues. We need action, and we need it now. We need clean air, clean water, and healthy food. We need access to affordable healthcare and education. We need policies that protect our communities from the harmful effects of pollution and climate change.
As a mother, I will continue to fight for a just system and a just transition because that’s what mothers do. We protect our babies at all costs. I will continue to speak out on behalf of my children and all children who deserve a healthy and safe environment to grow up in and I hope that you will join me. No mother should have to go through what I went through with my son or what my other children deal with when it comes to their skin and their lungs. We deserve better, and we demand better.