Local man who lost wife to asthma attack advocating awareness during 'peak week'

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — Asthma is a year-round problem, but experts say it's especially bad in September.

One local man lost his wife to an asthma attack three years ago this week, under tragic circumstances.

"There's no way she thought that this week would be any different than other week," said Peter DeMarco.

Three years ago, this week, a horror show unfolded outside Somerville Hospital as 34-year-old Laura Levis, in the midst of a serious asthma attack, tried desperately to find an open entrance to the facility's emergency department.

"I'm having an asthma attack...I'm dying," she told the 9-1-1 operator. "I can't get in."

Laura Levis couldn't get in because the entrance before her, where ambulances came in, was locked.

"I'm just at the door," she told the 9-1-1 operator. "I feel like I'm dying."

Laura wound up collapsing outside the hospital. Days later, she died.

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"She was just a healthy, young, vibrant woman, who never in her wildest dreams or my wildest dreams could die from asthma," said DeMarco, Laura's husband, a reporter for the Boston Globe.

DeMarco chronicled what happened outside the hospital in the Globe Magazine story "Losing Laura."

He didn't know at the time that Laura's death came during what's known as 'peak week,' when hospitalizations due to asthma tend to be highest.

"It's the most dangerous week of the year for anyone with asthma," he said. "That's because it's high ragweed-pollen season, and because kids going back to school are exposed to a lot of viruses that can trigger asthma."

DeMarco recently worked with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to warn of the increased asthma risk in September.

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His pain may linger, but DeMarco is determined to honor his wife by working to help save other lives.

"I don't want this to happen to anyone else," he said. "It's just that simple."