OAKLAND — The pediatric inpatient unit was quiet, except for the deep, relentless coughing. It was the sound of asthma — asthma out of control.
Two of the children who’d spent the night there, oxygen sensors glowing red around their index fingers, were ill, one with a bad cold, the other with pneumonia. But they were confined to hospital beds for a different reason: Their lungs were screaming for more air. Their illnesses had likely caused their already-sensitive airways to tighten up, choking off the flow of oxygen. And so far, nothing — not the quick-relief inhaler at home, nor hours of treatment in the emergency room — was enough to bring their breathing back to normal.