Letter from a mother who lost her son due to a fatal asthma attack at age 3 – An email from the Asthma Society of Canada


Dear Erika,

The holidays are supposed to be such a happy family time. But they can be heartbreaking when you’ve lost a loved one, especially a child.

We lost our beloved son, Emerson, last December due to a fatal asthma attack. He was only three.

I desperately want to make sure my family’s tragedy doesn’t happen to anyone else. The Asthma Society of Canada is working hard to make that happen.

Erika, please give a gift that really matters this holiday season. Your donation to the Asthma Society of Canada’s Holiday Appeal will ensure that other families receive the information and education they need to recognize signs of the disease and how to prevent a tragedy like ours.

Emerson was such a joy. He was always up for anything and afraid of nothing. Our beautiful boy wanted to be just like his brother, almost two years older than him.

Emerson had his first chest infection at 11 months. He got a ‘puffer,’ which we then used whenever he got a cold or cough. He would use it for two weeks at a time, and it always worked to relieve his cough and chest congestion.

Otherwise, he got the usual coughs and colds, but nothing that seemed unusual. He was a happy and healthy child.

That all changed last December. He caught a cold, and as always with Emerson, it went to his chest. We took him to the urgent care clinic, then a pediatrician, where his puffers were increased, then changed. Over the next two days, he had severe bouts of coughing, sometimes coughing so hard he threw up.

During the night of December 15, he began crying and coughing heavily. He was so wheezy and congested, we decided he needed to go to the Emergency Department. We wondered if he might be having an asthma attack.

Supporters like you have done so much to educate Canadians about the disease through the work of the Asthma Society of Canada. But there’s still more that needs to be done. Thank you for being part of the solution.

At Emergency, they saw Emerson quickly, and gave him three nebulizers (a mask that blows tiny drops of medication deep into his lungs). While receiving them, he was happy and his chest was clear.

The hospital performed an x-ray on his chest and the doctors said there was nothing obvious on them, possibly the beginning of bronchitis. They felt I was doing everything I could at home. Unsatisfied, I planned to call the pediatrician as soon as we got home.

On the way home, Emerson coughed non-stop and kept asking for his puffer. I stopped and gave it to him, but it didn’t help.

If I had known more about asthma, I would have turned right around and gone back to the hospital. I know now that someone who doesn’t respond to the puffers needs to be seen right away.

A few minutes before we got home, Emerson’s coughing stopped. I thought he had fallen asleep in the car, as he had done so many times before.

When I went to get him out of his car seat, Emerson was not breathing. I called 911 and started CPR, but he never came back. The autopsy later confirmed Emerson died from an asthma attack.

Emerson had never suffered an asthma attack before. I think if I had been better educated about the disease, I would not have left the hospital that day. Maybe our sweet little Emerson would still be here.

Our family is not alone in our grief. In Canada, 250 people die from asthma attacks each year. But you can help change that. Please send your generous gift to this Holiday Appeal to ensure other families have happy holidays for many years to come.


Thank you,

Sheri Olain

Emerson’s mom


6 thoughts on “Letter from a mother who lost her son due to a fatal asthma attack at age 3 – An email from the Asthma Society of Canada

  1. Hi Erika,
    I can’t figure out how to find readers’ replies to your blog. Being able to read them might encourage me to reply, too. I don’t have as severe allergies as you do, but I’m on the continuum with many different allergies. I have a hard time traveling and eating out due to allergens in carpets, furniture, air and food. I spent a day in the ER with chest pains thanks to incense. Perfume makes me choke. I wear a scarflike mask (from REI) while sewing. I have a golden retriever/poodle mix (goldendoodle) with a curly coat that does not shed or produce dander and I am fine with him. He brings some dust in but somehow most of it falls off of him. I do have to be careful not to touch the Frontline tick repeller for three days until after his bath. Thank you for writing and publishing your blog!

    • Hi Lindsay,
      Thank you for sharing. I was very happy to read your comments as it is not often that readers comment. Your comments made me feel like I was successfully sharing my thoughts and stories and being heard. I can definitely appreciate how challenging it is having many different allergies. I am so sorry to hear that you spent a day in the ER due to fragrance. I have had serious asthma attacks due to incense and scented candles however have been lucky that it did not end up in the ER. Would you be able to share a picture of the scarflike mask you wear from REI? I am very interested as I may need to find an alternative for if and when dogs start riding buses out hear. Also, I am very intrigued to know that your goldendoodle doesn’t irritate your allergies/breathing! Very interesting. Again, thank you so much for commenting and sharing your thoughts. Perhaps your comments and thoughts will inspire others to comment as well. I will keep writing. Stay well,

      • Hi Erika,
        I’m not sure how to share a photo, but the scarf is called the Buff Original and costs $20.00. I own five now. They have really come in handy for walks on smoggy or smoky days, or days with high pollen counts. In one situation I was glad to be able to wear two at a time. It is shaped like a tube and can be worn umpteen different ways. I wear it like a stick-em-up mask. When not in use, it can ride around my neck. They come in many pretty colors. I sew a half inch seam along the length of mine so it stays on more tightly. It should be easy to make your own; I’m just not sure which fabric I should use and where to find it, so I haven’t tried yet. Perhaps another reader knows which stretch fabric filters air best.

  2. I also want to say that Sheri’s tragedy with losing her son is frightening and unthinkable, but she taught me something that may help me in the future, in case I am with a child or adult who is having trouble breathing, It is important to remember that medical personnel sometimes don’t catch everything. Sometimes there is nothing anyone can do. One of my neighbors, a middle-aged man with a history of asthma and plenty of experience treating it, also died at home from an asthma attack. We all do the best we can. Again, I appreciate your blog, Erika.

    • Thank you for your kind words Lindsay and for sharing what you learned from Sherri’s tragedy and for sharing the story of your neighbor. To be quite honest, I have only heard of a few asthma tragedies, and I know there have been many more. I wish to raise awareness around asthma and how an asthma attack can cost someone their life. I often find that when introducing myself and mentioning my allergies and asthma, the first question people have is; “What foods are you allergic to?”. I write this blog because although food allergies are life threatening, more precautions can be taken then for asthma attacks and I am more concerned about severe asthma attacks then I am of an anaphylactic reaction because we do not eat out much and I cook everything from scratch. When you have chronic asthma and the triggers are unknown, I can’t even imagine how scary that is. I know a few people who do not know the triggers. I feel fortunate that I know mine.

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