Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Asthma in the Williams Family and the Potential to Raise Money for Asthma

Asthma is a horrible disease. It affects 7% of the US population and 300 million people worldwide according to Wikipedia. I had asthma in my late 20s into my early 30s when I moved from Ottawa, Canada down to Rochester, NY to work for the Eastman Kodak company. Within a few months of moving south to upstate New York I was having what I thought were panic attacks. I would be running most afternoons from Kodak Park over to Seneca Zoo and back and generally clocking 5 miles during those runs, probably 4-5 days per week. During the process of running around Kodak park I was moving a lot of air through my lungs, and with it, moving a lot of pollution coming from the stacks of Kodak park into my lungs. When I ended up at a doctor gasping for breath he did some very basic tests, declared that Rochester was one of the pulmonary disease capitals, said welcome to Rochester and handed me a prescription for albuterol telling me that I definitely had asthma. Over the next few years I kept running...it became more of a struggle with time. I was involved with testing research medications. Stress definitely made it worse. Frosty winter mornings made it worse. Lack of sleep made it worse.
Today I don't take asthma medication at all...I moved south to North Carolina where the air is cleaner and came off the meds. Now, maybe they are not related. Maybe there's no correlation. I do get tightness in the chest when I go to cities such as London and Moscow but it goes away when I return home. I believe I am still asthmatic but cope well with it in general...but respond to bad air pollution as many others do.
I am the father of twin 7 year old boys, Taylor and Tyler. They are wonderful boys and I am truly proud of who they are. One of our boys had asthma earlier in his childhood. He has allergies to multiple things - blue and red colorings, dust mites, chemicals etc and has a negative reaction to albuterol...he gets very wiry and wound up and hard to manage after he's dosed. Nevertheless we use the medication when we need to. For the past 3 days Tyler has been sick with a cold. Colds always go to his lungs and he has been on an inhaler every few hours. A few weeks ago he was diagnosed with H1N1 and it developed into pneumonia. His lungs have had a lot of stress in his early years and I hope that the rest of his life has him grow out of the disease and not suffer the challenges of gasping for breath, feeling like he's drowning with his head above water and not being debilitated by not being able to breathe.
Despite his breathing problems once in a while he is a wiry little guy, loves tumbling and gymnastics, does karate, loves swimming, soccer and football and with his brother they are quite a team.Our whole family started running 5km races together late last year, our first one at Thanksgiving. The picture below is of the three male members of our family after one of the races (L to R: Taylor, Me, Tyler). The fact that our boys are running 5km races in about 37 mins when they are so much smaller than me truly impresses me...their legs move like little motors. The fact that Tyler is doing it with his asthma and lung challenges is truly impressive!
I've been wondering whether there is a way to monetize my next year of running to raise money for asthma. I'm looking for help and guidance to have an online system where I can post my progress and have a central organization collect sponsorship and finally hand it over to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. I've just started work in this direction but if anyone out there has experience in conducting a personal sponsorship event like this I'd be interested in hearing from you.

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