Celebrating Organ Donors and the Lives They Impact

Every February, National Donor Day celebrates and recognizes those who changed the lives of others through organ donation. According to Donate Life America, 113,000 people in the U.S. are currently waiting for life-saving organ transplants. Thousands of those are living with lung cancer or other chronic lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis.

One person’s organ donation has the potential to save as many as eight lives of those in need.

Respiratory Health Association works with a number of people who have received a second chance at life through an organ donation. Each of them has dedicated their time to giving back in the hope of helping others living with lung disease.

Steve Ferkau     

“I am only here as a result of improved research and treatments into lung disease. I am a miracle of science and the generosity of my donor Kari and her family.”

 

 

 

 

man and woman outside

Tim Thornton

“It was surreal that you could go from not being able to breathe to thinking that you have a second chance with a new set of lungs. I am forever grateful to the donor’s family who made the decision to donate the gift of life.”

Read Tim’s story

 

 

 

man walks daughter down the aisle

Tom Earll

On the third morning after his transplant, Tom could see downtown Chicago from his bed. The sun rose, reflecting off the glass buildings. “I sat up and took a deep breath. I got hit with this wave of emotion, and I burst into tears because I realized that this was my new normal.”

Read Tom’s story  

To learn more about how organ donation can make an impact or to add your name to the donor registry, visit organdonor.gov.

Jewelry Television Partners with RHA for Women’s Lung Health

Living with lung disease not only affects your breathing, but your peace of mind as well. Lung disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

Women, in particular, are at a greater risk of developing lung disease than men. Nearly 21 million U.S. women live with lung diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and pulmonary fibrosis. Millions more have early symptoms.

The numbers are breathtaking:

  • More than 13 million women in the U.S. have asthma – accounting for 65 percent of all adults with asthma
  • An average of 193 women die each day of lung cancer, one every 7 minutes.
  • An estimated 8.5 million U.S. women are living with COPD. Today, more women die of COPD each year than men.

Despite the data, women’s lung disease research is drastically underfunded compared to other causes of death. This disparity in funding leads to fewer treatment options and poorer health outcomes. At a time when lung health couldn’t be more important, we want to generate awareness about women’s lung disease and raise funds for ongoing research efforts.

“Women’s lung health is the public health crisis no one is talking about. One out of every six women in the United States is living with chronic lung disease such as asthma, COPD, or lung cancer, yet federal research funding for these diseases is severely lacking,” says Joel Africk, President and CEO at Respiratory Health Association (RHA).

Table that shows disease funding and mortality rates

Despite lung disease as a top cause of death, lung disease research is drastically underfunded.

To address this disparity, RHA launched its Catch Your Breath® Women and Lung Health Initiative.

Lynn Kotsiantos originally inspired the Catch Your Breath campaign. Lynn was a non-smoking, healthy mother of three shocked to learn that she had lung cancer. After a nine-month struggle, she passed away in April 2003 at the age of 42.

In her honor, Catch Your Breath® continues as a women’s lung health awareness campaign. Catch Your Breath® raises awareness and funding for lung health research and programs. To improve treatments, Catch Your Breath® advocates for increased funding for research to better understand lung disease. Additionally, the initiative educates the public and medical professionals about the disproportionate effects of lung disease on women.

Respiratory Health Association's Catch Your Breath Women and Lung Health Initiative logo

One component of the Catch Your Breath® campaign is a partnership with Jewelry Television (JTV).

butterfly jewelry blue and purple

Throughout the month of February, JTV is offering a variety of promotions to its customers to support RHA and the Catch Your Breath® initiative, including a lineup of colorful butterfly-themed jewelry. For each piece from the collection sold, JTV will donate 50% of the sales price to RHA.

To locate JTV on your local cable provider, click here for the channel finder. JTV also livestreams daily broadcasts on its website.

“Our partnership with JTV is an important part of our women’s lung health campaign because we can reach such a large audience – it is critical we get people talking about this issue and work to turn the tide in the fight against lung disease,” explains Africk.

Visit womenslunghealth.org to help every woman breathe easier.

Our Sponsors

pulmonx logo Jewelry TV logo

 

Give today to support our fight against lung disease. 

Protect Your Family with a Home Radon Test

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that occurs naturally in the environment. It can enter homes through cracks in the foundation and go unnoticed for long periods of time – potentially causing long-term lung health problems for those living inside. Breathing in radon can damage cells in the lungs and even lead to lung cancer. Exposure to radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, causing nearly 21,000 deaths annually. January is Radon Action Month, a great time to test your home for unsafe levels of this gas and take steps to remove it if needed.residential street

According to the U.S. EPA, nearly one in 15 homes has elevated radon levels. Home testing is the only way to identify elevated levels of radon, but you can purchase affordable, do-it-yourself test kits from most hardware stores and online.

There are a variety of short-term testing devices that take between two and 90 days to complete. These are good if you need quick results.  Long-term devices remain in the home for more than 90 days. They may provide a more accurate radon average as levels vary from season to season.

If test results are above 4.0 pCi/L — a measure of radioactivity in a liter of air — you should take additional steps to reduce radon levels. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has a list of professionals trained to mitigate radon in residential areas who can help you address these issues.

Experts recommend testing your home every two years.

Have additional questions about radon gas or how you can make sure your home is safe? Learn more with our library of radon-related resources.

Sharing Hope for a Future Free of Lung Disease

As we close out a year of many challenges, I am proud of all we have accomplished at Respiratory Health Association (RHA). Together, we have continued to reach for a future free of lung disease.

With the support of our dearest friends, supporters, and partners this year, we made some amazing progress.

Five things give me hope for a brighter tomorrow.

 

Our amazing Making a Difference Volunteers

They give me hope and inspiration in their dedication and support of healthy lungs and clean air for all. Whether riding CowaLUNGa to support kids who have asthma or working with people committed to quit smoking, these awardees have lived RHA’s mission and they are amazing.

collage of photos

RHA’s resilient program staff

When respiratory therapists paused their pulmonary rehabilitation programs for patients living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and shifted to help care for COVID-19 patients, RHA stepped up and provided much-needed patient resources. RHA’s new Project STRENGTH (Support for Transitioning Rehabilitation and Exercise Now Going to Home) offers exercise routines and breathing tips COPD patients can use at home.

girl behind sewing machine and face masksOne of RHA’s Next Generation Advocates, Mia Fritsch-Anderson

Mia, a high schooler who lives with asthma, made more than 3,500 masks over the last nine months. Mia donates masks to people in need and sells some with all the proceeds going to charities doing important work during the pandemic.

Our local research community

These scientists have worked tirelessly over the last year to find treatments and new vaccines for COVID-19. The collaboration across the industry has saved countless lives, and RHA is excited to help promote the vaccine in the new year.

Our environmental policy staff and partners

Amidst the pandemic, they have continued to fight for equitable clean air policies and to reduce climate change. The air we breathe has a direct effect on our lungs, and these advocates are committed to protecting the air to ensure we can all breathe better.

These people, and their tremendous work, give me hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Please join us and make a gift today to help create a tomorrow where everyone breathes easier.

Thank you for being a part of Respiratory Health Association’s community.

Have a happy new year,

Joel J. Africk
President and Chief Executive Officer

COVID-19 Safety This Holiday Season

The holiday season is here women preparing food holiday seasonand with it, questions and concerns about celebrating safely while COVID-19 continues to spread. While the safest option this year is to celebrate with only those in your household and virtually “connect” with loved ones, the CDC has released new guidelines for those who wish to gather in person.

While we know that large gatherings increase the risk of spreading the virus, there is also a risk of spreading the virus in smaller family gatherings. It is best to keep activities limited to those in your household, your social bubble (which may include a caregiver), or others if social distancing can be observed.

Traditional holiday activities like parades, shopping, and other large events pose a high risk. Close physical contact and mixing with people outside of your social bubbles make it easier for the virus to spread. Instead, try shopping online or ask family members to order items for you so you can avoid crowded stores. Other low risk activities include watching sports games, parades, and movies from home. However you choose to celebrate, look at the COVID-19 positivity rates in your community. From this information, decide what best suits your family. And if you go out, always wear your mask!

Lung Disease and COVID-19: An Update

We invited Dr. Khalilah Gates, a pulmonologist from Northwestern Medicine, to share her experiences as a front-line provider during the COVID-19 pandemic and how the virus has affected people living with COPD. Dr. Gates discussed what we know so far about COVID-19 symptoms and testing, and the best prevention practices for people living with lung disease like COPD.

man with lung disease during COVID-19Common COVID-19 Symptoms

The most common COVID-19 symptoms people experience include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, body aches, headache, sore throat, new loss of smell or taste, and diarrhea. Symptoms vary by person, so it is important to monitor your health. Symptoms can occur between 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Some people who recover from coronavirus have had longer lasting symptoms, including fatigue and cough.

COVID-19 Tests

There are two types of tests that are currently available: viral tests and antibody tests.

  • Viral tests: Collected via nasal swab (most reliable), oral swab, or saliva. Used to
    diagnose an active COVID infection.
  • Antibody tests: Collected through blood draws. A positive antibody test suggests you
    were exposed, but we do not know that having antibodies protects you from becoming
    re-infected.

Prevention Practices for People Living with COPD and Other Lung Diseases

While people living with COPD are not more at risk for getting COVID, there is an
increased likelihood of having a more severe case of the virus. Dr. Gates suggests the
following for people living with COPD:

  • Continue your home medications—now is not the time to stop taking any providerprescribed
    medications that help you manage your COPD.
  • Practice COVID-19 specific guidelines, which include:
    • Wearing a mask. It is very important to wear a mask that covers your
      mouth AND nose when out in public. If you are having trouble breathing
      in your mask, experiment with different fabrics, materials, and types of
      masks. If you continue to have difficulty breathing in a mask, you may
      need to limit the activities you do that require you to wear a mask.
    • Clean your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20
      seconds. If you do not have access to soap and water, use alcohol-based
      products.
    • Practice social distancing. Limit contact with people and stay six feet
      away from others when possible.
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces often.
  • Stay as active as possible. Take walks whenever possible and visit the RHA website for
    tips on exercise while staying home.
  • See your doctor. Hospitals have protocols in place to minimize transmission of COVID-19,
    but many doctors now have the option to use telehealth (which include video visits and
    phone calls).
  • Stay up to date with your vaccines, including the getting the influenza vaccine. Now is
    the right time to be getting your flu shot.

If you would like to learn more about the relationship between COPD and COVID-19, view one of our webinars on-demand.

Respiratory Therapists Are Front-line Heroes

healthcare workersThis year was a challenge for everyone. As we think about how COVID-19 has affected our families, health, and way of life, we also think about the unique challenges people living with lung disease have faced. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs offer important support for people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Through exercises, peer support facilitation, and more – every day heroes known as respiratory therapists help people manage their disease and live more fulfilling lives.

As COVID-19 began to spread, critical programs like these were paused. Many respiratory therapists moved to treatment teams to help people recovering from the virus. Their work, and that of so many healthcare workers, inspires us. It gives us hope that we will overcome the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the absence of these programs left the COPD community without easy access to resources they count on to breathe easier. Respiratory Health Association was ready to help. With the initial support of pulmonary rehab leaders, we are launching Support for Transitioning Rehabilitation and Exercise Now Going to Home (STRENGTH). This program offers exercise routines and breathing tips COPD patients can use at home.

In an uncertain time, we bring hope to people living with COPD.

We look forward to the day when respiratory therapists reunite with their patients and can continue this important care in-person. Until then, we will develop and share resources to help people living with COPD stay safe and continue pulmonary rehab at home.

Over the years, your support has helped us fight for a future free of lung disease. As we continue to address the changing needs of our lung health community, we say thank you for your support.

If you are able, we ask you to support RHA this giving season. Give today to help us continue important lung health initiatives in Illinois. Together, can bring hope to people living with lung disease.

David Yelin, Esq. Receives 2020 Herbert C. DeYoung Medal, RHA’s Top Honor

Respiratory Health Association is proud to acknowledge years of work and leadership of board member, David Yelin, with the Herbert C. DeYoung Medal this year.

Since 2002, David has helped build Respiratory Health Association (RHA) into the strong local lung health organization we are today, but he acknowledges and credits the work of his collaborators and mentors first.

“I stood on the shoulders of many great people who came before me,” David quickly admits as we talk about his accomplishments on the board.

Over the past 18 years, David has helped diversify RHA’s board membership to include members from different areas of business – a move that helped develop new partnerships and support for the organization.  After his 2-year tenure as Board Chair, he led the board’s Governance Task Force ensuring RHA has strong oversight and a vision for growth. Earlier in his tenure on the Board, he helped orchestrate the Association’s establishment as an independent nonprofit, building support from the Board of Directors and ensuring RHA has the flexibility to develop programs and policy efforts that best meet the needs its communities and serve our neighbors who are disproportionately affected by lung disease.

When David was the Board Chair, he led the Association through the beginning stages of a Capital Campaign to improve our home at 1440 W Washington Blvd.  David helped launch the Capital Campaign in 2017 to address the growing building rehabilitation needs and to modernize the space. “We need a working environment for our staff that matches our mission,” says Yelin.

For David, receiving the DeYoung Medal this year has symbolic significance. David is the same age as his father was when he passed away, after smoking most of his life and then fighting lung cancer.

Both of David’s parents were smokers when he was young. Despite David and his three sister’s attempts at hiding cigarettes or pleading with their parents, they never quit smoking until later in life.  David is a big supporter of RHA’s tobacco policy programs, because he wants to stop cigarettes from getting into the hands of teens. David has advocated with RHA for Smoke-Free Illinois in the early 2000s and most recently Tobacco 21, raising the legal tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21.

David Yelin isn’t slowing down either. “Few people have the opportunity to be involved with an organization that has such an impact on people’s lives,” David says. “It’s a real privilege.”

On behalf of everyone at RHA, thank you David. Thank you for all you have done to make Respiratory Health Association one of the leading lung health organizations in the country.

Let’s Talk About Living Better with COPD

November is National COPD Awareness Month, a time to talk about the disease and raise awareness around symptoms and treatment. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing and shortness of breath due to airflow blockage. COPD affects nearly 16 million Americans, and millions more live with undiagnosed symptoms. Earlier diagnosis can help those living with COPD begin to improve their health and quality of life.

COPD may be a large burden on an individual. Without proper management and education, COPD can affect all sorts of activities of daily living. Anxiety and depression among COPD patients and their caregivers only make the problem worse. If you are living with COPD, it is important to recognize any changes in your symptoms and any limitations on your activities to better manage day-to-day living with COPD. The following are recommendations for living well everyday with COPD.

Recognize the importance of practicing prevention strategies

It is important to monitor changes to physical and mental health when living with COPD. Below is a list of prevention recommendations:

  • Get vaccinated (annual influenza and routine pneumonia);
  • Wash your hands routinely. Stay home when you are ill;
  • Stop smoking if you currently do, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke;
  • Review your medication list with your health care providers to ensure the list is current and you know how to properly use your medications;
  • Ensure you have a sufficient supply of medication at home, especially during winter;
  • Be aware of changes in mental health and communicate any changes to your health care provider and informal caregiver (spouse, child, etc.).

Monitor symptoms of COPD

People living with COPD should track symptoms and share any changes with a health care provider:

  • Please share any increase in coughing or difficulty breathing with your healthcare provider;
  • If a new medication is not working for you and not minimizing your symptoms, please tell your health care provider;
  • It is always okay to obtain a second opinion.

Anxiety and depression are common in patients with COPD and their caregivers

Mental health may impact someone’s ability to manage his or her COPD. It is important to be aware of the following:

  • Anxiety and depression in COPD patients is associated with increased COPD flare-ups, increased hospitalizations, longer lengths of a hospital stay, and decreased quality of life;
  • Be an active part of your care team. Be proactive with your physical AND mental health care;
  • Maintain physical activity, especially in fall and winter. Physical activity can have positive benefits on physical health and mental well-being—make sure to talk to health care providers about physical activities you can do indoors or at home.

If you care for someone living with COPD, it’s important to also take care of your own well-being. View RHA’s Caregiver’s Toolkit to learn more about ways you can help support those you care for while taking time for yourself.

If you live with COPD or want to learn more, sign-up to receive our Inspiration COPD Newsletter.