That was what life was like for 10 year-old Princeton before he met Dr. Elliott Attisha. An Asthmatic himself, Dr. Attisha holds Detroit's alarming childhood asthma rates, which are nearly double the national rate, close to heart.
"We know that a child who has asthma, if it's poorly controlled, then they don't sleep well," says Dr. Attisha. "When you show up to school, if you show up to school, you can't stay focused."
Doctor Attisha is the Medical Director for Henry Ford Health system's pediatric mobile medical program. Known as the children's health project of Detroit, It features two state of the art mobile clinics, named Hank and Clara. And while the medical team treats all kinds of illnesses, they've found asthma is a major problem; going largely untreated among Detroit school children.
"Only about thirty to forty percent of kids who have asthma in Detroit are on a controller or have an asthma action plan. When those numbers should be 100 percent," says Dr. Attisha.
Over the past few years, Dr. Attisha and his team have led the effort to develop a same-day medication delivery program for students diagnosed with asthma, Helping families overcome transportation barriers, improving medication education and compliance. And most importantly, keeping kids in school.
"They come in with a smile on their face and when you have that chance to walk inside a school and they give you a hug it's worth more than anything in the world and we know that we're making a difference," says Dr. Attisha.
That difference is evident when you talk to some of his patients, who struggled to breathe before Dr. Attisha rolled up to their school with Hank and Clara.
"He made my chest feel better, feel good," says Princeton. "When I run I can a little faster instead on being down and trying to catch my breath."
"Now my son's not weezing as much. He has more spirit than he did before," says Stacie Robertson, Princeton's mother.
Dr. Attisha's goal is to expand the program to include more schools, and home visits designed to identify triggers. He says he doesn't want asthma to stand in the way of any child's dream.
"The true angels are Detroit's children and you can see Princeton is quite an amazing individual and as cheesy as it sounds, our program is for these kids to take off and land and do everything in between." says Dr. Attisha.