Human Interest Archive 2011

Hustle Up the Hancock

February 27, 2011

 Jon Adams
  Rachel Cano Allen
 Ann Baker  Meg and Hank Chamberlain
 North Shore Hell Climbers
  Amy Pokras
 Rebekah Worden 
 Video: Lung Health Champions Video: Ann & Bailey Baker
 Video: Steve Ferkau Video: Steve Krupowicz

Jon Adams hustles up the Hancock to honor son

Photo of Jon and Jon PaulMost people don't think about celebrating their 40th birthday participating in athletic events, but Jon Adams, of Elmhurst, Ill., knew that he wanted to take part in one with a charitable cause. He came across Hustle Up the Hancock, a stair climb fundraiser for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

He knew it was the kind of event he'd been looking for, and the fact that the event was local gave him the chance to invite more of his friends to join in. Raising money for a lung health organization also struck a personal cord with Jon; he and his wife, Melinda, have a little boy with asthma.

"I thought this would be a great way for us to do something to make him feel good about what he's doing," Jon said about his son. "I wanted to be able to give Jonny a pat on the back, to show him that he's got support."

Jon Paul, their son, is 3½ years old. Like most kids his age, he is as active as he can be. Jon says he loves climbing, running, jumping and playing a lot of football. But, as a child with asthma, Jon Paul is hit hard by colds that other kids would brush off, and he stays up at night coughing if he doesn't take medicine.

In December 2008, Jon Paul was diagnosed with asthma after going to the emergency room for heavy wheezing. He started a therapy regiment that wasn't right for him, and as a result he was in and out of the emergency room.

"The first asthma attack was very frightening," said Jon. "Those three trips to the ER helped us learn the maintenance part of it. We also went to other websites, including Respiratory Health Association's, and now instead of being in crisis mode, we were able to get ourselves educated and more in managing mode."

Now, Jon Paul is on a twice daily regimen of inhaled steroids and his asthma is well controlled; his parents are able to manage asthma symptoms before he has an asthma emergency. With their recent success, Hustle Up the Hancock seemed like the next step in supporting Jon Paul.

"We haven't been to the ER in over a year-that's a huge success for us," said Jon. "The pain in the butt is getting our 3-year-old to sit down for treatment, which can be four sessions of 30 minutes each if he has an infection. It's not a lot of fun for a little guy."

To show support in his patience with asthma, Jon and seven of his friends and family members, Jon Paul's "uncles," will take on the climb as part of Team JP. One of his supporters, Uncle James, will be flying in from California to take part.

"It's about my son for all these people," said Jon. "Everyone has gotten enthusiastic about it."

Jon Paul, seeing his dad training, is well-aware of what his family is doing for him, and when asked how he feels about it Jon said that his son is "sad that he won't be able to participate."

"Every time I talk to him he says, ‘I'm going to do it too, right?'" said Jon. "It's very cute."

Jon has been training for the 94-floor full climb since August, running up and down 10 flights of stairs at work "for fun" and jogging a couple times a week. His motivation stems from the support he knows he's giving his son, along with his goal of raising funds for furthering research and education when it comes to asthma.

"I just think that education is 95 percent of the game with asthma," said Jon. "There are effective treatments now, but we need more education on how to recognize symptoms and manage what's happening. For me, that is most important: having people who are around my son in particular be well-educated about what the warning signs of an asthma attack are and what to do when symptoms occur."

Team JP will climb the John Hancock Center on February 27, 2011, in the 14th annual Hustle Up the Hancock. As a Lung Health Champion, Jon is dedicated to raising $1,000 for Respiratory Health Association. In all, the event will raise more than $1 million to support local lung health research, advocacy and education.

"After seeing a 3-year-old go through the daily treatments and regiment of what he has to do, if we can offer him encouragement and let him know that his family and his uncles support him, that's all I need," Jon said.

To learn more about Hustle Up the Hancock, visit the official page.


Rachel Cano Allen climbs Hancock to honor dad, self

Rachel and her dadThis is our story. I say "our" story because this climb isn't just about me. My battle with lung disease is over, but unfortunately my father's isn't over yet.

My parents came to the United States from the Philippines in the early 1970s. My brother and I were born and raised in Chicago, and though now I live in North Carolina, I still think of the city as home.

My parents were hardworking people, but we didn't have much money. My dad was a machine operator at a factory in the city, and that's where his problems began. At work, he was exposed to a lot of chemicals to keep the machines running. They didn't have masks or anything, so the chemicals started to destroy his lungs. It didn't help that he had been smoking since he was just 11 years old, but the combination of smoke and chemicals snowballed his lung problems.

I remember 1988 was a very hard year. My dad was admitted to the hospital because he had tuberculosis (TB). TB itself is not easy to fight off, and his already damaged lungs couldn't handle it well. So the TB lingered on for a couple of years and, as a result, my dad had to quit his job.

I spent the summer of 1990 helping take care of my dad. He was home from the hospital, but he had a lot of doctors' appointments. He was coughing quite a bit and felt weak most days. Sometimes he couldn't get up to prepare food for himself, so I had to do it for him.

That summer was when my own trouble started. First it was just coughing, and I tried to brush it off, thinking it was a cold and I would get over it soon. I tried hiding it from my parents, but I think my dad knew something was going on. I came home from school absolutely exhausted, and then I started having night sweats.

Finally came the night that I awoke coughing up so much phlegm that I had to run to the bathroom. But it wasn't just phlegm; I was coughing blood into the sink. I didn't notice that my dad had sneaked into the bathroom right behind me.

"That's it," he told me. "I'm taking you to the doctor tomorrow."

Everything was a whirlwind the next morning from the physical exam to the chest X-rays to the TB tests. To my 12-year-old eyes, my chest X-ray looked really smoky, and the doctor said she has never seen anything like it.

The staff at the clinic were furious, and I remember the doctor yelling at my father because he didn't take me in sooner, and she said I would have died if he had waited any longer to bring me in. I have never seen anyone row at my father like that, and when she finished with him she turned to me. After a few minutes of yelling, I had enough.

"OK we get the picture," I said. "Now can I get my treatment, or are you going to keep yelling at us and delay me from taking my medication?"

I was mad at the medical staff for treating us that way. I knew that my father felt bad for not taking me in sooner, but it was my own fault that I did not take the initiative to tell him I was feeling so sick. In the end, I was in treatment for TB for the next two years, and I finished just before I started high school.

My father's battle wasn't over yet, though. He was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as a result of the damage his lungs endured from smoking and chemical exposure. But he kept smoking until 1996 when the doctor gave him an ultimatum: stop smoking or die. It took a year before he was finally able to wean himself off of cigarettes, but he did it.

He's been smoke-free for 14 years now, but he still has respiratory problems. He was recently hospitalized for a bout of pneumonia, and he's still battling COPD. He's on oxygen on an as-needed basis, and he's on medications to control his symptoms. Although he is at retirement age, he insists on continuing to work even though my brother and I insist that we would help take care of him. I think he feels guilty.

But out of the experience came some positives. Through my diagnosis with TB and experience volunteering at a hospital, I realized the importance of empathy in healthcare, and now I work as a nursing assistant. I take patients' plights seriously, and I do my best to make people feel at ease even in stressful situations.

I came across Respiratory Health Association in 2010, and the wonderful things that the organization is doing to promote respiratory health, and I can't thank them enough. I joined Hustle Up the Hancock to honor my father and all that he has done for me, and to promote the awareness of respiratory health.

To learn more about Hustle Up the Hancock, visit the official page.


Ann Baker climbed Hancock for lung cancer awareness

Ann and Wendy photoOn Sun., Feb. 27, Ann Baker climbed 94 floors as part of Hustle Up the Hancock, a stair climb fundraiser for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. Though more than 4,000 people climbed that day, few can say that they did so despite having stage IV lung cancer.

Ann was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer in 2007. Since then, she has become a strong advocate for people living with lung cancer - the number one cancer killer of men and women.

"While I did not invite cancer into my life, I do take the lesson seriously," Ann said. "I fight for my kids' sake as well as my own. I've got more yet to do here."

It started with her diagnosis. When initially telling people that she had lung cancer, everyone asked her if she smoked - which she never did. Still, for Ann, having lung cancer was far more important than how it came about. And the negativity around the disease only made it harder for her to stay positive about recovering.

"When medical personnel repeatedly asked me if I wanted information on a living will, I finally asked for information on the Will to Live!" Ann said.

In April 2010, Ann traveled to Washington, D.C, to garner support for the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act. Currently waiting to be re-introduced, the act would make lung cancer a national public health priority and fund vital research to find better methods to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.

"I benefit from newer, less invasive and better result medication because people started working on newer therapies and maintenance methods," Ann said. "Luckily, I have excellent insurance, but the number of people I meet that can't afford the newer drugs just breaks my heart. This needs to change."

For the past year, Ann has been taking an oral chemotherapy medication that has reduced her cancer cells and kept her going. She's kept working and stays active with her family.

"I can't ask for a better support team from a medical, work, home, family and friends perspective," Ann said. "I am fortunate to live in the Chicago area where excellent medical facilities and personnel work and conduct research."

Ann competed in her first Hustle Up the Hancock in 2010. At the time, she signed up for the event's half climb of 52 floors. But as she crossed the finish line into the John Hancock Observatory, she knew she could have done more.

This year, Ann climbed the full 94 floors beside six coworkers and five friends as part of the Breathe Right® Team. Ann and her dear friend Wendy finished the climb arm-in-arm.

"She walked every step of those 1,632 stairs beside me, though I'm certain she could have done it faster on her own," Ann said. "For her, it's not about the performance, it's about the purpose."

The same goes for Ann. In her two years climbing as a Lung Health Champion, Ann has raised more than $16,000 to support Respiratory Health Association's local research, advocacy and education.

"I'm so very thankful to have found this network of people working on behalf of curing lung illnesses," Ann said. "As threatened and low as I felt when initially being told I had stage IV lung cancer, working to fight it for me and others has brought satisfaction beyond measure. "

To learn more about Hustle Up the Hancock, visit the official page.


Gurnee Fire Fighters climb Hancock for Meg

Meg and Hank ChamberlainHank Chamberlain, of Gurnee, Ill., has been looking forward to doing Hustle Up the Hancock in support of his wife of 14 years, Meg, a double lung transplant recipient. He's known about the climb, a fundraiser for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, for years now, but this will be his first year climbing-the year that counts.

"This climb is for her," said Hank. "To show support for her strength and to educate my group of friends and everyone about the importance of organ donation."

In her 20s, Meg was diagnosed with bronchiectasis, a rare disease in which damage to the airways causes them to widen and become distorted. After 22 years of coughing up mucus, not being able to laugh without wheezing and major allergies, Meg received two new lungs from a young man named Dino.

In September 2010, Meg was diagnosed with stage III chronic rejection. The doctors told her that she would have up to 12 months to live.

Meg had been down before. After her transplant, she was unable to eat and needed a feeding tube in order to survive. Her doctors told her she would never eat again, but nine months later, she proved the doctors wrong and was enjoying eating normally again. Meg hopes to prove the doctors wrong again about her diagnosis and dreams of living a normal life being able to breathe again.

Meg's family was the first to know about the diagnosis. Her children, all three of whom adopted, were devastated to hear the news. Her youngest son wanted to move back home. Even her daughter, who is presently eight months pregnant with Meg's first grandson, wanted to drop everything she was doing to help.

"It's been an emotional roller coaster for all of us," Hank said about his wife's health.

Meg's disease causes her to get tired very quickly from even the smallest physical activity. She gets a terrible cough and finds that she has trouble breathing, sometimes gasping for air when she's moving around. She can no longer do basic daily tasks and sometimes has trouble even walking around her home.

Nowadays, Meg stays home. When she does move around her home, she requires a high flow oxygen mask to help supplement her breathing.

Meg doesn't know if another transplant is right for her, but she is keeping her options open. For now, she has been receiving a treatment called photophersis that will slow the progression of the disease.

It won't be a cure, but if the new treatment works Meg will gain more time to live, helping her reach year nine with these new lungs, a personal goal of hers, along with meeting her husband and the team at the top of the Hancock and witnessing the birth of her very first grandson.

"Mostly, I just want to be around my family," said Meg. "I am strong and have the will to fight my diagnosis because of the strength, love and support that I receive from my family, friends and support network. I want to be able to see my first grandson in January and then be at the top of the Hancock to see my husband and his friends in February. Right now, it's just one goal at a time."

Meg stays optimistic with help from a great support group. Hank, her husband, has gathered up 10 of his fellow firefighter friends to join him this year at Hustle Up the Hancock. The team has dubbed themselves, "Gurnee Fire Fighters Breathing Hard for Meg."

"The guys are definitely onboard," said Hank. "And they've been onboard since before the registration. A lot of them have helped transport Meg to the hospital on numerous occasions. Many of them have even become organ donors themselves. The support has been overwhelming."

Gurnee Firefighters Breathing Hard for Meg will take the climb on Feb. 27, 2010 and hope to raise $10,000 for awareness efforts for organ donation and further lung research, advocacy and education for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

To learn more about Hustle Up the Hancock, visit the official page.


Firefighters to Hustle Up the Hancock: North Shore Hell Climbers

On Feb. 27, 2011, five firefighters will join together to take on Hustle Up the Hancock, a fundraiser for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. Together, as team North Shore Hell Climbers, they will climb up 94 floors of the John Hancock Center to raise awareness and funds for lung disease research, advocacy and education.

Lung disease hits firefighters particularly hard. By the nature of running into smoke-filled environments, their lungs are exposed to dangerous fumes on a regular basis and as a result, many firefighters develop lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and asthma.

Martin Joyce is a member of the Winnetka Fire Department and is co-captain of the North Shore Hell Climbers this year. He will be climbing for the first time to honor people living with lung disease.

"The event, to me, represents helping people in bad health with lung disease," said Martin.

He is also climbing in memory of the 343 firefighters lost during the Sept. 11 attacks and for the firefighters who developed lung diseases from breathing in smoke, toxic chemicals and powdered particle matter at ground zero.

"I took my very first exam six months before September 11," said Martin, who remembers the many years of dedication and hard work it took to become a full-time firefighter. "This climb is a tribute to the firefighters who were lost on that day."

Research from a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine has proven that firefighters who were present at ground zero between Sept. 11 and Sept. 24 had a 10 percent drop in lung function and health a year after the attack. The smoke they were exposed to included traces of burning jet fuel, pulverized glass, asbestos and a number of toxic chemicals. Many of these firefighters (30 or 40 percent) showed reoccurring symptoms of coughing, wheezing, sore throat, sinus drip or shortness of breath, and 20 percent developed asthma or chronic bronchitis, qualifying for respiratory disability.

Each year, teams of firefighters, such as the North Shore Hell Climbers, help raise awareness for lung health by climbing up the Hancock. Their dedication to those lost on Sept. 11 and those continuing to live with the after effects of working at ground zero are proven by their determination and strength.

To learn more about Hustle Up the Hancock, visit the official page.


Amy Pokras Hustles Up the Hancock to keep her parents' memories alive

Photo of Amy
 Amy Pokras
 Photo of Amy's mom, daugther and son
 Amy's mom, daughter and son.

On Feb. 27, Amy Pokras of Oak Park will take on Hustle Up the Hancock, a 94 floor stair climb fundraiser for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

"Of all the causes that I support respiratory health has been the one with the biggest impact in my life," said Amy. "And in terms of a cause that was near and dear to my heart, this is a good way to focus my energy and make something positive come out of a difficult year."

In December 2010, Amy lost her mother, Cyrille, to lung cancer. The loss struck Amy deeply; she was an only child and her mother was her only surviving parent. It was also Amy's second loss to lung disease.

Her father, Donald, passed away in 1992 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Since birth, Donald had congenital spine defects (scoliosis and kyphosis) that compressed his torso, severely restricting the amount of space in which his lungs could expand.

This condition contributed significantly to his COPD. Told by his doctor in 1962 (several years before the Surgeon General's warning) that quitting smoking might increase his life expectancy and improve the quality of his life, Donald quit a three-pack-a-day habit cold turkey. He never smoked again.

Despite having a significant physical abnormality and compromised breathing, Donald lived life to its fullest. He worked in the shipyards during World War II, and later as an industrial chemist. In 1969, he was put on a nebulizer and took three to four treatments daily for the rest of his life. In 1979, he started home oxygen therapy at night. In 1989, he started oxygen full time.

Until his very last days, Donald stayed as physically active as possible. He rode a stationary bike daily to keep his lungs healthy and earned a brown belt in Judo. He worked full time as a chemist until his last illness, carting an oxygen tank to work and using his lunch breaks to take nebulizer treatments. He was a man who wouldn't let people tell him what he couldn't do. When asked what her father might say if he knew she was doing Hustle Up the Hancock, Amy gave a small laugh.

"He would say, ‘I'm going to Hustle with you,'" said Amy. "He would have figured out a way to do the whole thing, even if it meant he had to strap on an oxygen tank to his back."

By contrast, Cyrille, at 76 years old, was in better health. But in March 2010, she had a stroke that rendered her unable to walk. "She'd never been as determined as my dad," said Amy. "But she was not going to let the stroke be the end of her."

Cyrille worked hard in rehabilitation, to go from having two nurses help her walk 25 feet to walking one-tenth of a mile on her own. After such a significant recovery, in early summer 2010 Cyrille found herself back in the emergency room battling pneumonia. A bronchoscopy revealed the unthinkable: smoke-free for at least 45 years, Cyrille was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.

As she began radiation treatment, Cyrille maintained her independence with fierce determination. "She was still doing the same things," said Amy. "Seeing her grandkids, getting her mail, playing Scrabble and reading. She still had her quirky sense of humor."

In December, Cyrille passed away. Shortly after that, Amy heard a radio ad and realized she wanted to participate in Hustle Up the Hancock. She'd heard about the event for years, but after the most recent events in her life, she knew this was finally the year.

"It struck me once again how affected my family has been by the lack of respiratory health," said Amy.

In addition to her parents' diagnoses of COPD and lung cancer, Amy and her son Zachary, each have asthma. Fortunately, by managing their triggers and understanding their symptoms, Amy and Zachary are able to maintain active lifestyles. When Amy takes on those 94 floors of the John Hancock Center, she'll be ready physically and emotionally.

"I just hope to keep my parents' memories alive," said Amy. "That's why I'm doing this: to make sure people remember them and what they went through so that other people's journeys are easier. If you can't breathe, you can't really do anything else."

To learn more about Hustle Up the Hancock, visit the official page.


Nurse Rebekah Worden inspired by patients to climb Hancock

Rebekah WordenRebekah Worden of Chicago is pumped for her second year participating in Hustle Up the Hancock, a fundraising event for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. She and 35 of her coworkers will take on 94 floors of the John Hancock Center on Feb. 27, 2011 as part of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital team.

An oncology nurse, Rebekah, climbs in support of her patients who inspire her. She has been fortunate enough to work closely with them and their doctors, and has found through the process that her own life has been touched by these individuals.

"It really grounds you," said Rebekah. "It changes your perspective being around these people with lung cancer and the people working with them, and makes your job more than just a job. It becomes something you care about and something you're passionate about. It makes you want to do more for them. It's a really good feeling."

Rebekah's focus in this year's climb is to raise awareness about one of the main causes of lung cancer. She wants to showcase how terrible cigarettes are and how harmful they are to the body. She says she wants to "stop lung cancer at its source."

"With lung cancer, we see it after it's too far along and developed," said Rebekah. "But if we were able to educate others about the harms of cigarettes and smoking, and find supporting research to back it up, we could cut it off before it even starts."

Rebekah also hopes that others will be able to learn something from the event, saying that, "I hope at a minimum it will make people step back and think about what they are doing to their lungs, and that it will highlight the people who are living with lung disease every day."

In that belief, Rebekah is not alone, and it shows in the excitement from her teammates. Last year, the enthusiasm and commitment from her team geared her up to join in, and this year is no different.

Rebekah and the Northwestern Memorial Hospital team will be at the Hancock with matching T-shirts, a booth and physicians available to talk about lung cancer and lung health. The team has already raised more than $3,000 toward their goal of $1,200 in support of lung health research, advocacy and education.

"There are nurses and doctors on the team," said Rebekah. "It's inspiring to see all these people who care, and continue to care so much about the cause. It's a nice reminder and I'm glad to be a part of it."

To learn more about Hustle Up the Hancock, visit the official page.


Lung Health Champions

Ann & Bailey Baker

Steve Ferkau

Steve Krupowicz

Hike for Lung Health 2011

    Jean Schmit
Josie's Angels           
NCH Pulmonators  

Schmit family happy to be healthy at Hike for Lung Health

SchmitJean Schmit of Round Lake can remember a time when her 5-year-old daughter had to constantly be attached to tubes and machines treating her lung disease. But, at Sunday's Hike for Lung Health, Maddie Schmit was free of any medical devices that could have held her back from enjoying the day's walk and children's activities.

Maddie's family and friends joined her at Hike for Lung Health to raise funds and awareness for lung disease. The walked with Children's Interstitial Lung Disease Foundation and joined more than 800 people for the fifth annual event, hosted by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. It will raise more than $100,000 in support of 12 local lung health organizations.

Lung disease is the nation's third leading killer, affecting more than one million people in metropolitan Chicago alone. Hike for Lung Health proceeds support lung disease research, advocacy and education programs. Many of the walkers participated in honor or in memory of individuals affected by lung disease.

Jean was at Hike for Lung Health with five other families whose children are diagnosed with similar diseases. Pointing at a banner with dozens of children's faces, she was able to name them all, since they'd become so close supporting each other. Jean said she's grateful for Maddie's improving health, and participated in the walk to help others who have gone through the same thing she has.

"We have pictures from just last year's Hike of Maddie hooked up to several machines during the walk," Jean said. "Now she gets to be here not hooked up to a tank, running around laughing."

To donate or learn more, visit


Josie's Angels watch over former coworker

Josie's AngelsThere are a lot of days that Josie Cruz can't finish everyday activities such as showering and cleaning before she needs to rest. She lacks energy, is short of breath and has coughing fits. As someone living with pulmonary fibrosis, her symptoms are normal, but they're ones she wishes she could erase. Luckily, she was recently able to push them aside for an afternoon in the park with friends to raise funds and awareness for lung disease.

Team Josie's Angels participated in Hike for Lung Health, an event hosted by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to raise more than $100,000 in support of 12 local lung health organizations. Josie walked with 30 friends, many of whom were her former coworkers in the newborn intensive care unit at Edward Hospital in Naperville. So far, the team has raised $3,900.

"So many people have joined the cause because Josie bridges all groups of people and she is universally liked," said team captain Rachel Harding. "We've all been amazed at her strength and sunny outlook."

Josie was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2010. The disease affects 200,000 Americans and causes scarring on the lung tissue, making it difficult for lungs to deliver oxygen. To Josie, the idea of her lung health declining was hard to digest.

"Working as a neonatal nurse, I think of the lungs as still growing and regenerating, but that's not the case in an adult lung," Josie said. "Once lungs are scarred as an adult, there's nothing your body can do."

Doctors do not know what causes pulmonary fibrosis, and there's not an FDA approved treatment or cure, although patients recover with lung transplants. Josie was recently added to the waiting list for a bi-lateral lung transplant.

"Every day, I just try to make it through the next day and hopefully get that call," she said. 

Though Josie has been on disability leave from work for two years, she stays in touch with her coworkers and keeps them up to date on her health.

"All of my coworkers have been so supportive, they're like a second family to me," Josie said. "We wanted to do this because not a lot of people know about pulmonary fibrosis. We need to advocate for more funding and awareness so we can better treat others and just get the word out there."

To donate or learn more, visit


NCH pulmonary rehab participants walk for lung health

Pulmonary rehab participants at Northwest Community Hospital recently took trips to Chinatown, a casino, Wrigley Field and more without ever leaving the hospital's campus in Arlington Heights. For the third year in a row, a group of 30 pulmonary rehab patients participated in Hike for Lung Health as virtual walkers and charted 60 miles walking to many of Chicago's best sites.

Hike for Lung Health is hosted by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to raise more than $100,000 in support of 12 lung health organizations. On Sunday, September 25, more than 800 participants will walk one or three miles around Lincoln Park in honor of individuals affected by lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, lung cancer, ARDS and sarcoidosis. Some participants, such as Northwest Community Hospital's pulmonary rehab group, choose to be virtual walkers by walking at another site over a period of time.

"We decided to walk 60 miles as teams this year because we calculated that was how far it was from Arlington Heights to Lincoln Park," said Mary McNally, a nurse at Northwest Community Hospital and captain for the NCH Pulmonators. "Participating in the event was a lot of fun for everyone. Every so many miles, we set up days so everyone participating could wear a Cubs jersey and feel like they'd walked to Wrigley Field or play cards and pretend like they arrived at a casino."

Everyone in the pulmonary rehab group has COPD, a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing and shortness of breath due to airflow blockage and damage to the lungs. In pulmonary rehab, participants focus on pulmonary wellness by identifying disease risk factors, achieving goals such as weight gain or loss, troubleshooting problems regarding oxygen and understanding preventative care. Because airways are blocked, normal breathing may take extra effort, making exercise seem nearly impossible. However, all patients must understand the value of exercise and make sure they participate in it, McNally said.

Hike for Lung Health offers a virtual walk option for people living with COPD so that they can participate in the walk, utilize the guidance of trained staff and achieve their exercise goals without being hindered by limitations or health risks. McNally said exercising in pulmonary rehab allows people to improve their balance, strength and quality of life, and participating as a virtual Hike team was a great way to get people excited about getting moving.

"The amazing thing is, everyone was surprised at how much they could do and it was a team building exercise," McNally said. "They walked that extra mile to get to their goal, and really became supportive of each other."

To donate or learn more, visit


World Tuberculosis Day: Carlos

Carlos was sick. He was coughing up mucus, had night sweats, and was constantly exhausted. He had gone to a clinic on the city's South Side where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and sent home with antibiotics. But he didn't feel any better, and though he returned to the clinic a few times over the next several months, he was told that he would eventually feel better.

For the next four months, Carlos struggled. He dragged himself to the hospital, hardly able to walk. As he was waiting to be seen in the emergency department, a doctor passed his bed and recognized his condition immediately. Carlos was taken into isolation and tests confirmed that he had tuberculosis (TB).

Carlos was just one of the 372 people diagnosed with TB in Illinois in 2010. Though the number of cases has been steadily declining over the last decade, TB is still a public health concern in Chicago, Illinois and the United States.

Although tuberculosis can be cured, there are several barriers to getting treatment. The populations hit hardest by TB can be difficult to reach, including people who use drugs, are homeless or are born outside of the United States. Like Carlos, some people are misdiagnosed or untreated for months. TB also carries a stigma, which prevents many people from seeking treatment.

"I never thought that I would get TB," Carlos said. "But I can't worry about how I got it. Because getting TB isn't the problem; treating it is."

Because his TB had gone untreated for so long and his condition was so severe, Carlos was hospitalized for four months and two weeks. When his sputum test finally came up negative, he was released. He takes medication daily and a medical case manager regularly visits him as he works to get back on his feet, but he's tired often and his medications make him feel sick.

"I'm very, very grateful that there is a network like this, something to catch people like me, who don't have insurance and are indigent when they get TB," Carlos said. "I was living out of my car, not eating well, not sleeping well. I had a perfect storm to incubate this disease."

On March 24, the Metropolitan Chicago Tuberculosis Coalition will host its 11th annual World TB Day celebration. The event brings together TB educators, advocates and community health providers to discuss TB prevention, treatment and awareness efforts in the city. Keynote speaker Sundari Mase, MD, MPH, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will discuss current treatments and projections for the future of treating and managing tuberculosis. Other speakers, symposiums and discussions will cover how to catch missed cases of TB, raising awareness for TB prevention and treatment, and methods to treating multi-drug resistant and extremely drug resistant TB.

To learn more about TB, visit our Tuberculosis pages


CowaLUNGa Bike Tour 2011

Ira Graham
Ed Martin
Bill & Dutch Stutz and Ralph & Sara Bechtold  

84-year-old cycles 60 miles for lung health

Ira Graham PhotoIra Graham, 84, spent Saturday, Aug. 6, cycling 60 miles through Illinois and southern Wisconsin, a feat that would be an accomplishment at any age.

Ira, of Wilmette, participated in Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago's CowaLUNGa Bike Tour to help raise funds and awareness for lung disease advocacy, education and research. He's participated in the tour for several years and has long been a supporter of tobacco prevention. The cause became personal when his wife, Helen Baer Graham, was diagnosed with lung cancer 15 years ago.

"My wife went to see the doctor after she had difficulty climbing a hill in San Francisco," Ira said. "The doctor did a chest X-ray and they later found it had spread to her nodes."

Ira and Helen remained optimistic through her treatments. They took trips to some of their favorite places in the world and she, being a longtime volunteer at Evanston Hospital, offered encouragement to people she noticed were also struggling with their health. The couple set up scholarship funds at area colleges and Helen continued to paint - her work won commendations in local and regional contests.

Two years after Helen's diagnosis, she passed away. It wasn't just her family and friends who were affected; her absence was felt by many in Chicagoland who would miss the "Gingerbread Lady."

"Every year, my wife would make thousands of cookies to hand out at Christmastime and she became known by that nickname," Ira said. "When she died, several newspapers ran obituaries about the ‘Gingerbread Lady.' "

Ira describes his wife as a "beautiful, respected and intelligent woman." After having lost someone so special to lung cancer, Ira became an advocate for smoking prevention and cessation programs. As a life insurance salesman, he offered discounts for nonsmokers before it was popular to do so. He was also vocal in his former hometown of Evanston about making all restaurants smoke-free.

Ira stays involved in efforts to extinguish smoking with his son Doug Graham, a board member for Respiratory Health Association. Ira said what he'd most like to see is more funds for lung cancer research, the largest cause of cancer deaths.

"I can't believe such a leading cause of death is sometimes given so little thought," he said.

One of his biggest yearly contributions is the energy he puts into CowaLUNGa, a one, two or three day bike tour from Gurnee, Illinois, to Hubertus, Wisconsin. Ira has been the oldest rider for several years but doesn't plan on quitting any time soon. Just as with all of his past tobacco prevention efforts, he'll push on until he sees a change has been made.

To learn more about CowaLUNGa Bike Tour, visit the official page.


Former Naval officer joins CowaLUNGa Bike Tour in honor of his father

Ed Martin PhotoFor a Naval officer, a change of command ceremony is momentous. So when Ed Martin was taking over command of a helicopter squadron in Norfolk, Va., he couldn't be happier that his five siblings, mother and father were there.

Looking back at that celebration 15 years later, Ed still feels a sense of pride over that day, but it's marked in his memory by something more than the ceremony. It was also the last thing his father, Ed Martin, attended before he passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Ed's father lived the last 10 years of his life with COPD but he managed to keep a relatively active schedule, probably due to his attitude. As a former Army officer in WWII, he was focused on the "mission" and getting through it.

"He would say, ‘this disease will kill me, but it's not going to beat me,' " Ed said.

His father had been a smoker for many years, but quit when he was diagnosed with COPD. He refused to let the disease affect his life, although it did keep him from doing as much traveling as he used to. Fortunately, he was determined to take one final trip.

"He said to his doctor, ‘No matter what you do, make sure I'm able to go to my son's ceremony,' " Ed said.

After the ceremony, his father was admitted to the hospital and passed away one week later. Ed is grateful they had time together as a family before that.

A recently retired Naval officer, Ed stays active by biking. In honor of his father, who was an "inspiration to his family," he will participate in the CowaLUNGa Bike Tour August 6-8. The ride is a fundraiser held by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to raise money for lung disease research, advocacy and education.

"I see advances that have been made in COPD medicines over the last 10 years and I think if my dad had those things he might have lived an even better quality of life," Ed said. "I know there's a lot of research being done for COPD and Respiratory Health Association is great at promoting that."

Ed will join more than 200 bikers at the starting line in Gurnee, Ill., to help raise more than $200,000. He heard about the ride from another former sailor, WWII veteran Ira Graham, and is looking forward to spending the day with his friend. He said he will be in good company with people willing to spend their weekend riding in a fundraiser for Respiratory Health Association.

"It's an honor for me to ride with people who are like-minded and feel it's a good cause to raise money for various lung diseases," Ed said.

To learn more about CowaLUNGa Bike Tour, visit the official page.


Couples dedicate 15 years to CowaLUNGa Bike Tour

Bechtolds and Stutzes photo
Ralph and Sara Bechtold and Bill and Dutch Stutz. 

For 15 years, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago has held a multi-day bike ride to raise money for its education, advocacy and research programs, and two couples have volunteered without fail. They say it's the ride's cause and 200 participants that are now like family that keep them coming back.

Bill and Dutch Stutz and Ralph and Sara Bechtold have either ridden in or volunteered with CowaLUNGa since its commencement. Now in their 70s, the couples return each year to set up rest areas, chaperone the route and pass on encouraging words to riders.

"They are the most dedicated, caring volunteers you can find," said Niki Bartosiak, assistant director of Special Events at Respiratory Health Association. "They have spent countless hours supporting our riders along the route over many years of the event.They put the needs and safety of our riders above all else."

CowaLUNGa evolved from BAMMI, "Bicycling Across the Magnificent Miles of Illinois," which was held from 1982 to 1996. The two couples volunteered with BAMMI since its inception and stuck with CowaLUNGa since 1997. The Stutzes got involved with the Credit Union League, organizing the rest stops, and Dutch and their children also rode in the tour several times.

The Bechtolds were approached to help due to their interest in bicycling. Ralph drove along the route to offer riders any needed support. He stayed near the end of the route for the last rider, who, it turns out, was occasionally Dutch.

"I should have kept a diary of my rides because they were so hilarious," Dutch said. "One time my friend and I got lost during the ride so we called the State Police. They told us to take I-55, so we rode on the highway right next to all of the traffic."

The couples laugh about past rides, such as 1985's "BAMMI to Hell and Back," when every day's average temperature was 105 degrees. They look forward to seeing what each year will offer and to meeting up with riders who've become like family, nearly all 300 of them. The riders and event staff look forward to seeing them, too.

"They are encouraging and inspiring," Bartosiak said. "They really help bring the family atmosphere to the event."

And no one can leave without hearing from Bill one last time.

"I always get on the buses the last night and thank everyone for coming," Bill said. "And I always tell them we expect to see them back next year."

However, the couples said there will soon be a year they don't return. This will be Ralph and Sara's last year volunteering, and Bill and Dutch plan to retire soon, though they can't force themselves to make that call.

"I've thought about retiring, and then I thought, ‘I don't want to quit,' " Bill said.

CowaLUNGa is something they can't stay away from, and they think anyone else who tries it will catch the bug as well.

"If you're any type of bike rider, you should ride it at least once," Bill said.

To learn more about CowaLUNGa Bike Tour, visit the official page.


Skyline Plunge! Chicago 2011

Amy Campbell-Brissette and Rina Campbell Denise Cushaney
MaryAnne FishmanMonique Howard
Kelsey Kamp Lauren LaViola
Maggie Moore
Betsy Sagala

Mother rappels to honor her commitment to being smoke-free

Betsy SagalaWhen Betsy Sagala got pregnant with her twin daughters, she knew she couldn't make any more excuses for smoking. She quit immediately and will celebrate her one year anniversary of being smoke-free by stepping over the edge 278 feet above State and Lake Streets in Chicago.

Betsy is participating in Skyline Plunge! Chicago September 17 and 18, during which she will rappel 27 stories of theWit Hotel. The event is hosted by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to raise awareness and funds for lung disease research, education and advocacy. Betsy said she's not just rappelling to celebrate making a healthy choice for herself and her family, but also for family members who weren't able to do the same.

"My grandfathers smoked and died from lung disease when I was young," Betsy said. "One had his lung removed and I can still remember him set up in a bed in his dining room after the operation. It was so sad because he was such a great person."

Betsy said since she's quit smoking, she has more energy to play with her daughters and doesn't have to feel left out from her groups of friends while she smokes. Most importantly, she's looking forward to making a "really cool memory" during Skyline Plunge! as a reminder of how far she's come.

To learn more about the Skyline Plunge!, visit the official page.


Daughter rappels in memory of father

Maggie MooreTwo years ago, Maggie Moore's perception of lung disease changed dramatically when her father went into in the hospital.

"I used to think that respiratory diseases - COPD, lung cancer - were something only smokers got," Maggie said. "But people who didn't smoke are affected by lung disease, too. My father never smoked and he passed away from lung cancer."

Al Moore was diagnosed with lung cancer in December of 2008, just as Maggie returned home to Michigan from North Carolina. Because of friction between them, they hadn't spoken much since her high school graduation. But all of that changed when Maggie's father pulled into the driveway at her mother's house barely able to walk. Few people will say something good came out of a loved one's death, but Maggie says lung cancer granted her and her father a second chance at a close relationship.

To honor her father, Maggie signed up for Skyline Plunge! Chicago on Sunday, September 18, during which she will rappel 27 stories of theWit Hotel. The event is hosted by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to raise awareness and funds for lung disease research, education and advocacy.

During Plunge!, Maggie will be thinking about her father's battle with cancer. After being rushed to the hospital, doctors told Al that his chest cavity was filled with fluid and one of his lungs had collapsed. After a surgery to re-expand his lung, he was relieved to hear he'd simply had an infection. His spirits stayed high until one week later, when several oncologists entered his hospital room and told him he had stage IV lung cancer.

"We were so surprised because my father didn't smoke, and we had no history of cancer in our family," said Maggie, of Chicago. "He was 69, which is young, and he still had the body, mind and health of someone in their early '50s."

Al was optimistic, though, and only took medical leave from his job as a prison guard in Detroit. He completed chemotherapy in the summer of 2009, but unfortunately, after several months, a CT scan showed the cancer had returned. Soon after that, large bumps formed on his back, a sign the cancer had spread to his spine. He passed away in March 2010.

Maggie had planned to return to North Carolina after one week in Michigan, but instead she took a six-week leave of absence from work and stayed with her father through his treatments. From the moment he turned to her and asked what was wrong, she knew she couldn't leave.

"It was the start of many conversations in the hospital," Maggie said. "For the first time in my life, we were able to see each other more clearly. I was able to see and appreciate everything he did for me and see how proud he was of me. His coworkers loved him, and I was surprised they knew so much about me."

Maggie's father also felt the cancer was taking on a larger role in his life than just making him sick.

"He said to my mom, ‘If getting cancer meant bringing me closer to my daughter, then it was worth it,' " Maggie said.

Doing something exhilarating such as stepping over the edge 278 feet above State and Lake Streets is the best way to remember her dad, Maggie said, since they never got to fulfill their dream of going tandem sky diving.

"My dad would be doing what I'm doing if he were here and healthy," Maggie said. "He was going to live his life to the fullest that he could."

To learn more about the Skyline Plunge!, visit the official page.


Wife to rappel in honor of deceased husband

MaryAnne and Fred FishmanFred Fishman wasn't afraid of much. Anytime "Mustang Sally" was played at a social gathering, he'd jump on stage to steal the microphone and the show while friends vied to be backup singers. When golfing, he'd play the holes in his own order, based on availability. He even stepped out in front of thousands at Wrigley Field to throw the game's first pitch.

For all Fred had no qualms about, there was one thing that terrified him: heights. So September 17 when his wife, MaryAnne Fishman, steps over the edge 278 feet above State and Lake Streets to rappel theWit Hotel, she'll be thinking of her husband the whole way down. MaryAnne is participating in the Skyline Plunge! Chicago in memory of Fred, who passed away from respiratory failure in February 2009. 

Fred developed Stage 1 Hodgkins Disease in August 2008. After completing chemotherapy, he developed a fatal complication from one of the chemotherapy agents, which severely damaged his lungs. He was admitted to the hospital and placed on a respirator, but passed away shortly afterwards during the Fishman's 32nd year of marriage.

When reminiscing about Fred, MaryAnne and their daughters, Lauren and Bryce, like to discuss all of the things he did to cram "124 years of living" into the 62 years he was alive. He was an emergency physician at Lincoln Park Hospital and the "Rock Doc," often caring for rock stars performing in Chicago. He raised two daughters and kept in touch with countless friends. People who were close to him would tease that he should write a book, "Marriage by Fred Fishman," because of the special relationship he and his wife had.

"Fred supported me in anything I wanted to do," said MaryAnne, a River Forest resident for 30 years. "I still draw on his encouragement."

Remembering Fred's unceasing encouragement and love for life convinced MaryAnne to participate in the Plunge!, where she will rappel 27 stories of theWit Hotel. Hosted by the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, the event raises funds and awareness for lung disease research, advocacy and education. MaryAnne's plunge is also a special reason for family and friends to join together and do good in Fred's honor.

"I just loved him so much and wanted to do something in his memory," MaryAnne said. "So many people have contributed to this cause and a lot of it is because of who he was."

To learn more about the Skyline Plunge!, visit the official page.


Sisters plunge in honor of family members

Campbell-Brissette family photo
Justin, Amy and their twin daugthers Atzi
and Quetzalli with their aunt, Rina. 

A day at the park - a relaxing outing for most families - usually causes anxiety for Amy Campbell-Brissette. If her 2-year-old twin daughters gleefully chase other children on the playground, she can't allow herself to fully enjoy the moment. They may be giggling and carefree, but the worry that their excitement might lead to a life-threatening asthma episode is always in the back of her mind.  

"Just the other day we were at a park and were able to stay longer than we have in a while," said Amy, of Chicago. "My daughters were happily playing with another boy and suddenly I panicked, realizing I'd forgotten their quick-relief inhalers. My mind started racing to think of nearby pharmacies, wondering if they'd give us medicine if there was an emergency."

This summer's heat and humidity has been uncomfortable and dangerous for Amy and her daughters, who all have asthma. Their recent trip to the park was the first in a long time that didn't cause them to go back inside coughing and gasping for air.

"This whole summer I've felt like a prisoner in my house, a prisoner to the nebulizer," Amy said.

Amy's daughters, Quetzalli and Atzi, were diagnosed with asthma when they were 1 year old. She gives them Pulmicort steroid treatments twice daily for about 15 to 20 minutes with a nebulizer, a machine that administers the medication directly into their lungs in a mist form through a respiratory mask.  This summer their asthma flare-ups required Pulmicort treatments three times a day and albuterol treatments every four hours. They've visited the doctor for extra treatments several times this summer, and once had to be treated at the emergency room. But nothing can compare to last New Year's Eve, when Atzi was hospitalized for respiratory distress caused by a viral infection. It's a memory that still causes Amy to break down in tears.

"The hospital staff said they couldn't do anything for her. The nurse said they thought she'd given up," Amy said. "Atzi went limp and her heart rate was racing." Fortunately, she was transferred to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago and recovered after five days.

Rina Campbell, of Evanston, has been with her sister and nieces for all of the health scares, so when she heard about Skyline Plunge! Chicago, she suggested they do it together. The sisters will rappel 27 stories of theWit Hotel on Saturday, September 17. The event is hosted by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to raise awareness and funds for lung disease research, education and advocacy.

Rina is participating in Plunge! to honor her favorite uncle and grandfather who passed away from lung disease, and to teach her children a life lesson.

"I want my kids to see even though you're scared of something, there are things more important than my own fear, like building awareness around respiratory health and air quality," Rina said. 

Amy said the memory of her family members was the initial catalyst for her, too, but after such a trying summer with the girls and their asthma, her focus has changed.

"At first I was doing it for my family members affected by lung cancer, but now I'm doing it for my girls," Amy said. "They're the ones who are still alive and have to deal with lung disease every day. I hope something good comes of this, either through the programs the association holds or the education and outreach. They can make things easier for everyone, but especially for the kids."

To learn more about the Skyline Plunge!, visit the official page.


Mother to step over the edge 278 feet above State and Lake Streets

Denise Cushaney Photo
  Denise Cushaney, left, with her friend and fellow
Plunge participant Elise Linker.

On September 18, when Denise Cushaney steps over the edge 278 feet above State and Lake Streets, she'll be thinking about how her father's 62nd birthday should have been celebrated the day before.

Her father passed away in 2009 after he was diagnosed with lung cancer one year earlier. A lifelong smoker, Gary Cushaney underwent heart surgery a few times and faced other health problems. Denise and her siblings watched helplessly as he repeatedly struggled to quit smoking to regain his health.

"It was horrible to lose him," Denise said. "It could have been avoided, but smoking was just always a crutch for him. I'm 38, and I should still have my dad. I have kids, and they should have their grandpa."

After her father's death, Cushaney and her family members became very aware of the health-related choices they were making.

"Most people in my extended family have quit smoking now," she said. "It's sad it had to happen, but losing my dad has helped them make healthier decisions."

For her part, Denise began to participate in programs that support tobacco prevention or lung disease research and advocacy. This fall, Denise will rappel 27 stories down theWit Hotel as part of Skyline Plunge! Chicago, a fundraising event for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. The event will raise awareness and more than $110,000 for lung disease research, education and advocacy.

Denise won't be alone as she steps off the edge of theWit. Her friend Elise Linker will rappel, too, and her mother and children will be cheering her on from the sidewalk. Afterward, she plans to take her family to Navy Pier or Lincoln Park Zoo, "something we would have done with my father," Denise said.

By rappelling, Denise hopes to raise awareness of the importance of quitting smoking or never starting to smoke. She said she would also like to see more research done for lung cancer, which is the number one cause of cancer death in the United States.

"It bothers me that our medically-advanced country hasn't caught up to fighting a leading cause of death," Denise said.

Denise added that she encourages smokers to quit now to decrease their chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer later. She's witnessed several family members do so and looks forward to the healthy futures they hope to enjoy.

To learn more about the Skyline Plunge!, visit the official page.

Mother to rappel 278 feet in honor of son

The Howard Family   

When two-and-a-half-year-old Carter Howard meets a doctor, he immediately smiles and lifts up his shirt.

"He  always does that because he's so used to doctors checking his  breathing," his mom, Monique Howard, explained with a laugh. "Sometimes  I'll have to tell him, ‘That's a dentist. You don't need to show him  your chest.' "

While Carter may be content during his  many trips to doctors, his parents Brad and Monique are often worried.  As a young child with asthma, Carter has been to the ER many times and  hospitalized twice. About every other month, it's typical for him to  need more medical help than just the breathing treatments he has three  times a day with a nebulizer, which sends a mist of medicine into his  lungs.

"What triggers Carter's asthma are colds, and  it can be really difficult because children his age always have colds,"  Monique said. "I hate to dramatize it, but every play date I go to, if a  child has a cough, it could put Carter in the hospital. To us, germs  are not just germs. They become more dangerous."

If  Carter has an asthma attack that cannot be relieved even when his  parents are having him take nebulizer treatments every hour, he has to  go to the doctor. There, they sometimes give him steroids and it takes  several hours before the Howards can see a difference in his breathing.

"It's  been difficult as a parent, because you want to alleviate any problems  your child has," Monique said. "Steroids take six hours to kick in, and  it's a very precarious six hours, just waiting and hoping they'll work." 

In honor of her son, Monique Howard will go to new  lengths to raise funds for lung health research, advocacy and education  in Chicago. The adventure-seeker will rappel theWit Hotel September 18,  2011, as part of Skyline Plunge! Chicago. Hosted by and benefitting  Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, Skyline Plunge!  participants step over the edge 278 feet above State and Lake Streets  and will raise more than $110,000.

Monique and Brad  have had asthma since their teenage years, so they were supporters of  Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago before Carter was  born. However, watching their son struggle with asthma strengthened  their commitment to helping people living with lung disease.

In  Carter's case, his asthma may become more manageable as he gets older,  although Monique said there's the possibility he will always have  complications from it. While she is lucky to have resources to help  their son regain his health after each asthma episode, many other  children may not have the same access to medical resources. Monique said  her knowledge of that, and watching helplessly as Carter has an asthma  attack, were what pushed her to take the plunge.

"The  majority of the people do Skyline Plunge! for more personal reasons and  to raise more funds for the association, and I wanted to join them,"  Monique said. "My family is so blessed because we have a lot of access  to healthcare, but I know there are people with less access or  healthcare that is not as good. I also wanted to do this because the  Respiratory Health Association sponsors asthma research and education  for the inner city."

To learn more about the Skyline Plunge!, visit the official page.


Kelsey Kamp to plunge in honor of grandfather

As a longtime CTA rider, Kelsey Kamp was frustrated  the day she boarded the wrong CTA train and got off at the wrong stop  to transfer. She'd set herself back an hour and couldn't believe her  absentmindedness. She was stewing when she got off the El, but her mood  shifted when she looked up. ‘Maybe the mistake hadn't been for nothing,'  she thought, as she read a sign on theWit Hotel advertising the chance  to step over the edge 278 feet above State and Lake Street.

Skyline  Plunge! Chicago, hosted by Respiratory Health Association of  Metropolitan Chicago, raises funds for lung disease research, advocacy  and education in Chicago. Kelsey loved the idea of rappelling 27 stories  because it would be the perfect way to honor her grandfather, who  passed away in 1993 from pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema.

"I  was young when my grandpa passed away," Kelsey said, "but for several  years I'd watched him suffer and not be able to breathe. It really made  an impact on me."

Carl Chappell was a longtime  resident of Jacksonville, Ill., and Kelsey can still remember many of  his good qualities, like how he doted on his granddaughters after having  raised four sons.

"Born in the '20s, he was  definitely a product of his generation," Kelsey said. "He was a frugal  blue collar worker and a diehard Cubs fan. I just learned so much from  him and all of the stories he told, like from when he served in World  War II."

Kelsey also learned the harms of  smoking when she and her family discussed her grandfather's disease.  Smoking is the leading cause of emphysema, which damaged air sacs in  Carl's lungs and made him progressively shorter of breath. Pulmonary  fibrosis caused scarring to his lung tissue and his lungs slowly lost  the ability to deliver oxygen to vital organs.

Since  her first exposure to lung disease, Kelsey has met many other people  who've also experienced it in some way. She is participating in Plunge!  not just for her grandpa, but for them as well.

"Lung  health affects everyone, whether they realize it or not," Kelsey said.  "And more than anything, I think education about lung disease is really  important. We need to know more about the causes, effects and  treatments."

To help RHAMC reach a  fundraising goal of $110,000 through Skyline Plunge!, Kelsey  automatically knew at what number to set her fundraising goal: $1,993,  in honor of the year her grandfather passed away. Friends and family  have generously donated to her, and she's hoping to reach her set amount  by the day she rappels theWit in September. There, she'll be joined by  family who will cheer her on and help remember Grandpa Carl.

To learn more about the Skyline Plunge!, visit the official page.


Lauren LaViola - 27 Stories 

This poem was written by Lauren LaViola, who participated in Skyline Plunge! Chicago 2009 and is coming back for the 2011 event. Lauren rappelled in memory of her father, Larry, who passed away from lung cancer. Read her full story here.

27 Stories

Twenty-seven stories, they ask,

You're crazy is what they say.
Why on earth would you do that, Lauren,
Please tell me that you get paid?

I don't get paid in cash I tell them,
If that's what you mean.
I get paid in other ways,
A payment  that's unseen.

My heart and soul get filled with comfort,

In a way that I can't explain.
Comfort knowing that I'm helping
Myself and others heal the pain.

The pain of losing a loved one,

A partner, parent or friend.
One that you always imagined
Would be with you til' the end.

But lung disease cut that short,

No one asked for our permission.
So we step over the edge of theWit,
And raise money with just one mission.

As rappelers we raise money in hope

That scientists diagnose lung disease quicker,
That they discover causes and find cures,
Before any more innocent get sicker.

Each floor down attached to only a rope,
I think of a happy memory with my dad,
Facing a terrible personal fear of heights,
He fills me with strength so that I'm not sad.

Twenty-seven stories, they ask,

With fear filling their eyes.
Twenty seven stories indeed, I say,
And I'd go 100 more so no one else dies!


Lung Power Team: Chicago Marathon 2011

Julie Barrett Sangita Bhagat
Ginger Cioffi-CarragherNate Gray
Hank Olsen        Lauren Sandman

Woman takes control of asthma with Lung Power Team

Julie BarrettJulie Barrett of Evanston ran in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as part of the Lung Power Team, a group of athletes supporting Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Julie joined the team to stay healthy and manage her asthma, which she was diagnosed with as an adult. When she found out she had asthma, she originally used it as an excuse to quit her exercise routine, but soon realized that was not the solution. Last year, she knew she needed to get moving again to improve her health.

"I was going to do something about this and do it big," Julie said. "I promised myself to run the 2010 marathon, but the training went really bad."

Despite dreading the marathon, she followed through with it, if only just not feel as if she let down others who showed her support. After she ran, Julie again fell out of the habit of exercising, until a doctor told her she had chronic coughing that was bad for her asthma. If she didn't make changes in her lifestyle, it would never improve.  A fear of poor health convinced her to join the Lung Power Team for the 2011 marathon, and to this time run it for her.

"I run for me and for other people who suffer with lung disease," Julie said. "I know the feeling of not being able to catch my breath from walking up a flight of stairs."

Lung Power Team athletes participate in races nationwide, and many are personally affected by lung disease. Each Lung Power Team member raises funds that support local lung disease research, advocacy and education. For more information on the Lung Power Team or to support Julie's efforts, visit


Naperville resident runs in support of her friend

Ginger Cioffi-CarragherGinger Cioffi-Carragher, of Naperville, ran in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Sunday as part of the Lung Power Team, a group of athletes running in support of Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Ginger ran her third marathon in support of people who have been diagnosed with Alpha-1-Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1), specifically her friend Liz Veronda. Alpha-1 is a genetic disorder that can cause emphysema and liver disease later in life. It's estimated that about one in every 2,500 Americans have it. Ginger said she chose to run in support of RHAMC because she'd like more people to know about symptoms and treatments of Alpha-1.

"I wanted to increase awareness for Alpha-1 so that if people are having respiratory problems they can pursue avenues for treatment, and know that there are successful treatments out there," Ginger said. "My friend Liz, with Alpha-1, is truly a hero because she gets up and embraces life every day. The least I can do is run 26 miles."

Lung Power Team athletes participate in races nationwide, and many are personally affected by lung disease. Each Lung Power Team member raises funds that support RHAMC's lung disease research, advocacy and education. For more information or to support Ginger's efforts, visit



Nate Gray supports lung health efforts in his hometown

Nate GrayNate Gray of Deerfield ran in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as part of the Lung Power Team, a group of athletes supporting Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

He chose to run the marathon to celebrate the fact he'd quit smoking two years ago, and now feels healthier than ever.

"I smoked for 20 years and finally gave it up cold turkey," Nate said. "I wanted to do something to celebrate my accomplishment and to have something to work toward."

Nate wanted to run with a charity team and chose to join Lung Power Team because of the relevance it has to his life. As a former smoker, he appreciates the educational programs and research Respiratory Health Association supports.

"I like that they have local programs, and aren't just focused on pharmaceutical solutions to lung disease," Nate said. "It's great that they offer support groups to help people quit smoking and that they back clean air initiatives. Their work is critical, especially because it's helping my hometown."

Lung Power Team athletes participate in races nationwide, and many are  personally affected by lung disease. Each Lung Power Team member raises  funds that support RHAMC's lung disease research, advocacy and  education. For more information or to support Nate's efforts, visit


Sangita Bhagat runs in honor of her father

Sagnita BhagatSangita Bhagat of Des Plaines ran in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as part of the Lung Power Team, a group of athletes running in support of Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Sangita has run half marathons in other cities, but said she thought it was time she participated in one in her hometown of Chicago. She ran in memory of her father, Shantilal, who passed away from respiratory failure and pneumonia in March 2011.

"This cause became a lot more personal to me because he passed away so suddenly," Sangita said.

She wrote online that she felt powerless watching he father suffer from his respiratory issues, and wanted to do something to help others. This marathon could do just that, she wrote. "As I train for the long runs for the marathon, I know I am helping others breathe easier - mile by mile, breath by breath."

Lung Power Team athletes participate in races nationwide, and many are  personally affected by lung disease. Each Lung Power Team member raises  funds that support RHAMC's lung disease research, advocacy and  education. For more information or to support Sangita's efforts, visit


Hank Olsen celebrates end to smoking with Chicago Marathon

Hank OlsenWhen Zion resident Hugh "Hank" Olsen finished a 20-mile run in September, he took a picture of the mile counter on his shoe and sent it to three of his friends to gloat. Because of a pact they'd all made one year ago, they were supposed to be on the run together, yet Hank was the only one there.

The four friends had all vowed they would quit smoking within a year's time and run the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Though they started together, Hank was the only one who followed through. He ran in the marathon as part of the Lung Power Team, a group of athletes running in support of Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

"I think what kept me from smoking again was my training," Hank said. "When I was smoking I could only run one mile before I felt winded. Last Monday, I ran 20 miles. Now, not only do I feel better physically and look better, I've also noticed a difference mentally."

Lung Power Team athletes participate in races nationwide, and many are personally affected by lung disease. Each Lung Power Team member raises funds that support RHAMC's lung disease research, advocacy and education. Hank said that while he was aware of all of the health problems smoking could have caused later in life, he quit for immediate gratification.

"I don't smell from smoking and my teeth are a lot whiter," Hank said. "I feel better when I wake up in the morning, and I'm no longer getting colds or coughs that won't go away. Even though I'm only in my 20s, I was really unhealthy in a lot of ways when I smoked."

For Hank, the hardest part about quitting smoking was to find new ways to calm his nerves when he was frustrated. Luckily, his exercise routine did just that. The week before the race, instead of being concerned about when he can smoke his next cigarette, he was constantly thinking about the goal ahead.

"The whole week was me feeling nervous about walking downstairs twisting my ankle, or worrying if I was breaking in my running shoes properly," Hank said. "I was so nervous and anxious to run, but really excited, too."

For more information or to support Hank in his efforts, visit


Lauren Sandman to run marathon in memory of her dad

Lauren  Sandman lost her father to lung cancer in January 2010, and since her  recent move to Chicago, she feels as if memories of him are everywhere.

Though  Shel Sandman raised his family in Los Angeles, he showed off his  hometown of Chicago to his children every summer. They'd visit their  grandparents in Evanston and hear stories of his family's establishment  on Clark Street. He knew all of the sites and savored Chicago-style hot  dogs. When Lauren moved here just a few months ago, she couldn't help  thinking of how her father would love to acquaint her with her new home  if he were still alive.

Shel was diagnosed with Stage  II lung cancer in June 2008. Doctors removed half of his right lung and  he went through chemotherapy treatments. For six months, he and his  family were optimistic it was gone, until a CT scan one year after his  diagnosis showed it had spread to his brain and left lung. There were 15  lesions that radiotherapy couldn't treat, and he died shortly after.

Thinking  of her father every day, Lauren decided to join a traditional Chicago  event in honor of him. She signed up for the Bank of America Chicago  Marathon as part of the Lung Power Team, a group of athletes associated  with Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. Lung Power  Team athletes participate in races nationwide, and many are personally  affected by lung disease. Lauren joined the team to meet more people and  remember her father.

"As soon as I saw this team, I  knew it was the one I wanted to join," Lauren said. "I'm giving to a  charity I really believe in and I can interact with people who have gone  through what I have."

Each Lung Power Team member  raises funds that support lung disease research, advocacy and education.  Lauren said she's passionate about fundraising because she'd like to  see more early detection for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer  death.

"Most people don't know they have lung cancer  until they have symptoms, and by then it's too late," Lauren said. "I'd  love to see research advance so that lung cancer is more preventable and  see screening technology available so it could be detected earlier."

Lauren's  family and friends have been supportive of her training for the  marathon. Most importantly, Lauren said her mom's presence at the race  and thoughts of her father will push her to complete the 26 miles.

"I'm  sure when it starts to get harder, around mile 17 or 18, I'll think of  my dad," Lauren said. "It'll keep me going because since he can't run  anymore, I'll run for him."

To support Lauren in her fundraising efforts, visit


COPD Awareness Month

 Eileen Whittle

Eileen refuses to let COPD keep her from living 'life to the fullest'

Eileen WhittleEileen Whittle has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which causes difficulty breathing and keeps her from completing day-to-day tasks such as vacuuming. Yet, evidence of the disease's destruction and her pleas to friends and family to quit smoking aren't enough to convert the smokers in her life. She gets frustrated that they won't heed her warning, but was in their shoes once. It was the same advice she ignored from her mother just before she passed away.

In 1988, doctors didn't have a name for the disease that included Eileen's mother's chronic bronchitis. Ten years later, when Eileen was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the symptoms were all very familiar. The disease describes emphysema, chronic bronchitis or a combination of the two. Eileen knew she'd immediately have to quit smoking, a habit she hadn't been able to stop for 40 years.

"I'd tried to quit a couple times, but it was always one excuse after another," Eileen said. "But, when your back is up against the wall, you know you either have to quit smoking or you'll die."

Eileen gave up cigarettes and joined a COPD support group to gain more information about the disease. An estimated 24 million Americans have it and, although it gets worse over time, learning what exacerbates COPD helps people regain balance in their life. Eileen receives COPD magazine subscriptions and gets a lot of her information from Respiratory Health Association and pulmonary rehab, where she focuses on how to breathe effectively and engage her core muscles.

"I have to look on the bright side," Eileen said. "I did put myself in this situation, but I beat myself up about it a long time ago."

Eileen has two daughters and a sister who still smoke. She said she can't understand why they won't quit immediately, because she knows they aren't in denial of the health risks. "I tell them, ‘You know what's going to happen. Why let it?' "

Eileen has become an advocate for COPD, talking to coworkers about it and joining causes such as sending letters to congresspersons when requested by RHAMC. Eileen is aware that nearly 20 percent of people with COPD never smoked, but that still leaves a large number whose lifestyle puts them at risk. To help cut down on that percentage, she focuses on making sure her grandchildren don't smoke, so they never have her worries later in life.

"Once you cross that line, there's no going back," she said. "Once a person has COPD, they can do things to slow the process, but it doesn't take it away."

Even though there are tasks that are impossible for Eileen to complete, she learned in rehab that moving is a good way to keep the disease under control. The 72-year-old still works as a banquet captain at McCormick Place in Chicago and will travel out of the country in August. Though everything now takes more planning and time, she's not going to let that stop her.

"I want to live my life to the fullest," Eileen said. "COPD makes everything harder, but I can't give up living."

Do you want to learn how to manage your COPD? Visit our COPD page.


Special recognition

   Diana Hackbarth  

RHAMC Board member named Illinois Outstanding Nurse Leader

hackbarthDiana Hackbarth, PhD, RN, FAAN, has been named the Joan L. Shaver  Illinois Outstanding Nurse Leader. Dr. Hackbarth is a professor at  Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing (MNSON).  She was honored for her hard work, commitment and dedication to serve  the health-care needs of the people of Illinois through her leadership  and ability to break through barriers. She will receive this award at  the 14th Annual Power of Nursing Leadership Event on Friday, Nov. 4, at  the Hilton Hotel in Chicago.

"Diana is an integral member of our  faculty and a champion for the profession of nursing," said Vicki  Keough, PhD, RN-BC, ACNP, dean, MNSON. "Her work has had a lasting  impact on nurses, students and the health of the population throughout  the state of Illinois.

Each year, the Power of Nursing Leadership  celebrates an exceptional nurse leader with the Joan L. Shaver Illinois  Outstanding Nurse Leader Award. This event brings together hundreds of  nurses to showcase the impact of the profession in shaping health care  to meet the needs of the people of Illinois.

Dr. Hackbarth was  recognized with this award for the various leadership positions she has  taken on during her career. This includes policy work she has done on  tobacco prevention as a team member of the Illinois Coalition Against  Tobacco and the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.  Dr. Hackbarth also was honored for her work to establish Loyola's  school-based health center at Proviso East High School. This center  provides easy access to health-care services and education for students  in an underserved community in Illinois.

In addition, Dr.  Hackbarth is an accomplished educator, researcher and author. Her  research interests include program evaluation, health policy and tobacco  control. She also has held leadership positions in public health  including serving as chair of the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco,  chair of the Wilmette Board of Health and as past president and board  member of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

"I  am honored to be recognized by this esteemed group of nurse leaders,"  Dr. Hackbarth said. "I have enjoyed representing nurses and witnessing  how our profession can make a difference in health policy, tobacco  control and in the delivery of primary health care to disadvantaged  populations."