Help Second Wind Raise Funds Through Hike for Lung Health

Charity Partner Second Wind Assists Lung Transplant Candidates & Recipients

Since the mid-1990s, the average number of lung transplants per year has grown from 400 to over 2,000. Second Wind Lung Transplant Association has worked to improve the quality of life for lung transplant patients, lung surgery candidates, people with related pulmonary concerns and their families, caregivers and friends since 1995.

Gracie Poole is a sweet 9 year-old who likes to dance and loves to learn. She also has a chronic lung disease and is actively waiting for a double lung transplant.

“There’s not that many organizations that provide financial assistance for lung transplant patients,” explains Gracie’s mother, Jennifer Poole. “The people at Second Wind were very encouraging because they were transplant recipients as well. They know that side of it.”

For families like the Poole’s, who relocated from Alabama to Houston in March to wait at Texas Children’s Hospital for Gracie’s lung transplant, the gas and grocery cards provided by Second Wind offered much appreciated support.

Each year, Second Wind is a Hike for Lung Health charity partner to raise funds to provide this kind of assistance to recipients, candidates and their families. With 400 members throughout the world, including the US, Australia, South Africa, the UK and Germany, Second Wind has small but powerful presence. Together, this year’s team has to date raised over $4,500 through Hike for Lung Health. These proceeds go to Second Wind’s Financial Assistance Fund.

Life while on the lung transplant list is unpredictable. Patients can be called in for a transplant at any time. The Poole family must always be ready to head out the door in case lungs become available for Gracie. In addition to financial support, Second Wind tries to be there for recipients as an emotional bedrock.

Cheryl Keeler, Second Wind board president, is a bilateral transplant recipient herself and joined Second Wind after using their helpline to gain background information on transplantation. “In addition to the helpline, we provide connections and information to members through our newsletter, Airways. The Hike for Lung Health provides much needed dollars that we in turn give to families like the Pooles,” Keeler shares.

Currently, Second Wind’s Hike for Lung Health team has 27 people. You can join them – in Chicago on Sunday, September 17 or as a Virtual Walker – to help raise funds to support those, like Gracie, who are waiting for a lung transplant.

The Poole family is grateful for Second Wind’s assistance, as the family needs all help available while they wait for Gracie’s new lungs. As Jennifer noted in a post to Caring Bridge, “Gracie is doing really well which is good. She needs to be the best she can be going into transplant… whenever that may be.”

Hike for Lung Health brings hundreds of people together at Lincoln Park each year to raise awareness and funds for healthy lungs and clean air. The one- or three-mile walk benefits organizations that support lung disease research, education programs and advocacy efforts. This year’s event is being held Sunday, September 17, 2017 and kicks off at 10:00 am. Pre-registration is $15. On the day of the event, registration is $20 and begins onsite at 8:30 am. Find more information about the Hike for Lung Health.

Gracie’s journey is being chronicled by her mother, Jennifer, on their Caring Bridge and Facebook pages.

Her Son’s Songs Push Esperanza Fe Borg

Esperanza has lived through the unthinkable. Six years ago her son, John, died of pulmonary hypertension.

This is how John described himself on Facebook: “I’m a pretty simple person to satisfy. Just surround me with good friends and good people, and what more could I want?”

John rarely complained after his diagnosis. As his condition progressed, John would casually mention that he needed to raise his feet, but nothing more. He even helped his friend move. Though able-bodied friends did not show up, John did. He tried to carry small items up the stars, and when he got too tired, he rested on their sofa. As he gained some strength back, he joked about the lightness of the furniture they carried. They said he made the move easier because he made them laugh.

Only once did he say this, “life sucks, I don’t want to have this disease.”

Esperanza told him, “If I could take this disease away from you, I’d take it in a heartbeat.”

Guitar and music were a way for John to relax. It was also a way for mother and son to connect. Esperanza had bought John his first guitar and taught him the basics. But he soon surpassed her skill to the point where she was asking him for advice. John also started singing and recording songs. Later, Esperanza downloaded his YouTube recordings.

John made an effort to travel the country even though he was sick. He elected an experimental treatment, both to be part of the search for a cure and also for freedom of movement. This allowed him to travel to concerts in every state, including Bonnaroo. An admirer of Incubus, Ray LaMontage and Ben Harper, John liked every genre and made friends with fellow music lovers all over the country.

As months passed into years, breathing and doing the activities he enjoyed became more difficult for John. Now attached to the intravenous medication he’d tried hard to avoid, traveling to concerts became a dangerous risk and he had to stop.

Around the same time, another blow hit the family. Esperanza was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now she was fighting for both of their lives.

One day while she was still on chemo, they both felt particularly ill. However, John was always looking to try new things and wanted a certain drink. Esperanza went to many stores looking for the brand even as the bottoms of her feet started hurting, a side effect of chemo. Esperanza finally returned home with the beverage in hand. To this day, she regrets remarking to him, “I hope you know, I had to go all over to get this.”

John said, “Mom, if I could do it myself, I would.”

Even as John’s mobility became limited, Esperanza knew that he could still find joy in his music. In August 2011, he saw a guitar gleaming in the storefront window with a price tag of $2,500. Esperanza agreed that he could have it for his approaching birthday. “Okay,” John had smiled, “but can I have it now?”

“I was glad that I bought it that day,” Esperanza remembers. “He was able to play it twice.”

By Thanksgiving Day of 2011, John’s condition had deteriorated. He asked if he could stay out of the ICU until after Thanksgiving, but this was no longer possible. For John it wasn’t imaginable to be apart from his friends and family on the holidays. Those who knew him understood that he could fill a stadium with his talent. As it was, he filled a whole room in the ICU with those who cared about him.

John struggled to talk, and as the night wore on, even to breathe. He leaned forward to a friend to share an inside joke. Memories closed the gap of what he no longer had the energy to express. It was his old fallback: even as he struggled, John understood that they could still laugh. There wasn’t enough strength left to do much else. Still, he didn’t complain.

When John passed, his group of friends attended his funeral. “I’ve never seen young men cry,” Esperanza recalls.

In the weeks that followed, Esperanza had a difficult time leaving the house. Eventually she joined a number of support groups. In 2012 she found a program called 9 to 5 – a 9-week prep program for a 5K race. Esperanza didn’t socialize much at first. But eventually she began to open up about her reason for running – John.

“Talking about him was a way that I was able to go on. He loved life. I should continue to do things and enjoy whatever life has to give me. That’s how he would want me to live and that’s how he would live. There’s so many things we wanted to do when he got better. He wanted to travel more. He wanted to go to Europe. And hike. I’m doing this for him now. I carry him with me. He’s my strength to keep me going. To do the things that life is giving me.”

John’s friends and Esperanza meet every year on his birthday, which is near Esperanza’s birthday as well. Now they call it “everybody’s birthday” and use the day to celebrate life the way that John did.

“His friends have become my family now. When there’s a wedding… three weddings now,” Esperanza gives a quiet laugh as she considers this. “One of them has a child. His friends invite me. Any kind of event that’s going on, they invite me. They don’t feel sorry for me. They accept me. I’ve become John for them.”

“Just love life. Whatever life puts in front of you. Sickness, whatever it is. Just continue living like today is your last day. Sometimes it’s easier said than done,” Esperanza admits.

As time passed, Esperanza progressed from 5Ks to marathons. John’s YouTube recordings have found permanence on her iPod. On marathon day, her son will sing: not to the crowd, but as part of a conversation, mother-to-son, encouraging her through her earbuds to embrace each step of the 26.2 miles.

“I’m able to walk and run, so I do it. And I do it for him. Because if he were able to do it, he would.”

Visit Esperanza’s fundraising page to support her goals.

Spots for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are gone but you can still make every step of your next race count. Join the Lung Power Team for some great benefits. You can help RHA achieve healthy lungs and clean air for all!

 

Matt Cantu Runs for His Family

Matt Cantu has lots of good reasons to run with RHA’s Lung Power Team, but initially, he was worried about fundraising.

Now, he’s over 75% of the way to his $1,500 goal.

His first donors were his wife’s parents. Then, Matt put out a request for donations on social media, but he did more than just copy and paste a link. He made his posts – including the message on his Lung Power Team fundraising page – a testament to his decision to run the Chicago Marathon.

“Make sure you write something about why you care,” Matt advises.

Matt is as green to marathons as he is to the world of fundraising. But his reasons for running are rooted in respect for family and his health. Remembering the why helps him tackle these new challenges.

“If you’re not listening to anything while you run, you play things in your mind. It’s easy to give up until you remember all of the reasons why you’re doing it. It helps you to keep going.”

His reasons include his wife, Megan, who lives with asthma and sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis involves collections of cells that inflame organs in the body, including the lungs. Four years ago, she struggled to breathe. Her symptoms improved dramatically with medical care and a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Although her experience isn’t typical of many people living with sarcoidosis, and she still has both conditions, she’s running 5Ks now.

When she first invited Matt to join her last year, running was painful, but he continued to work hard to improve his running times. Now Megan – who Matt describes as his best friend – is always there to support him for his races.

Although racing is a fun challenge and a bonding activity for them both, they carry a sense of responsibility to stay healthy for themselves and their family – because Matt also runs in remembrance.

Megan’s grandfather, Robert E. Lundberg, lost his life to lung cancer last June.

“He was a Vietnam Vet; that was something that he was really proud of. He wore his Vietnam hat every day; he walked the lifestyle of a soldier. When that disease took over him… to see his body just go down…” Matt trails off in thought.

Robert was a longtime smoker. Though he battled bravely, his health continued to deteriorate. After witnessing this painful progression, as well as the decisions of other family members to become healthier and quit smoking, Matt decided he wanted to get more fit. He believes that if more people witnessed a loved one go through what Robert did, they would make the same choice.

“He went from a really strong man to someone who couldn’t do anything. It was a sad thing, but I always try to learn from every situation that I’m in.”

Matt personalized his Lung Power Team fundraising approach by sharing Megan and Robert’s stories. This helped his network connect their support to RHA’s efforts, such as helping people quit smoking through Courage to Quit and funding lung cancer research. Many have already joined Matt in making a difference as he prepares to run the Chicago marathon on October 8, 2017.

Visit Matt’s fundraising page to support his goals.

Spots for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are gone but you can still make every step of your next race count. Join the Lung Power Team for some great benefits. You can help RHA achieve healthy lungs and clean air for all!