Hello, my name is Kristin Dagg and I have asthma, but not just “any” asthma, I have EA, or Eosinophilic Asthma. EA is an extremely severe and extremely rare form of asthma, affecting only five percent of adults. Eosinophils are white blood cells that help fight disease, and one of the ways they do that is by swelling up. But for an asthmatic, the swelling of the lungs and airway is very bad. So, EA results in more frequent asthma attacks, more severe attacks, and attacks that are difficult to control with rescue inhalers. And ultimately, it leads to a lower quality of life with serious consequences that can result from any sort of illness from airborne viruses.
Because of my EA, I qualify for a disability placard. As if my disability weren’t enough, I’ve been accused of using it illegally and have even been threatened to be turned in to the police. I’m often confronted by people who say, “But you don’t look disabled.” The truth is I breathe, on a good day, at a baseline of 47% lung capacity. So I’d happily trade my disability placard for the healthy lungs of those who criticize me.
When I’m at work, I cough, wheeze, and clear my throat—a lot. It’s frustrating for me, so I’m sure it’s frustrating for those working around me. I never go anywhere without my rescue inhaler, but when I’m coming into the office for eight hours a day, I also bring my nebulizer. I have a battery-operated, portable unit with tubes, hoses, power pack, masks, and medication, all held in a bag about the size of a lunch box. I use it two to three times a day—morning, afternoon, and evening.
One of the most frustrating things is what happens when I’m presenting in a meeting and talking a lot: I have an attack. This is extremely frustrating and embarrassing, as I begin to wheeze. In the past I’ve been told to contribute more in meetings, but this is the reason I sometimes don’t.
At Intel, I have the best co-workers in the world, who have supported me in my journey! They know what I’m dealing with and understand the seriousness of my situation. I started sheltering at the end of February, based on my pulmonologist’s recommendation, and it’s because of my manager that I was able to do so, while still being effective and successful when working from home 100% of the time. She understood what I was facing—that Covid-19 would most assuredly kill me—and she supported me. I am so fortunate to work for Intel. While there is certainly still work to be done for those of us with disabilities, I do believe decisions are being made with our employees in mind that are in our best interests.