Health Check: Fight For Air Climb

A woman and her dog hope to raise awareness about an often deadly lung disease. (WJAR)

A woman and her dog hope to raise awareness about an often deadly lung disease.

Debbie Wiechecki dresses her puppy, Nova, in a pink tutu with the words: "Team Clem versus Pulmonary Fibrosis."

"Our goal is to teach people what it is," said Wiechecki.

She says the love of her life, her husband Clem, was diagnosed with this chronic and progressive lung disease in September 2011.

"They told him go home and wait to die,” recalled Wiechecki. “And Clem says, 'I'm not going to go home and wait to die. I'm going to go home and live.' And Clem went home and lived his life to the fullest."

Moving from Providence to Las Vegas in 2014 helped him breathe a bit easier, for a while.

And that's when this couple got involved with the American Lung Association, and that's when they formed Team Clem versus Pulmonary Fibrosis.

"He climbed 1,455 stairs,” said Wiechecki of her husband Clem, who did the Fight for Air Climb in Las Vegas in 2016. He had to stop often and have oxygen once but he made it in under two hours.

"He inspires me to do what I do because I watched him struggle to climb those stairs," she said.

Clem lost his battle with pulmonary fibrosis on July 1, 2017.

"Approximately 50,000 new cases are diagnosed each year," said Brenda Figueroa, a board member of the American Lung Association in Rhode Island. Those cases with no known cause.

And it's because of all lung diseases that fundraisers like the Fight for Air stair climb are so important. These climbs help fund research.

"We do advocacy, educational programs, smoking cessation," added Figueroa.

And while Debbie is climbing for a specific cause, she says: "We're all pulmonary fibrosis warriors and I'm here to help them."

She's hoping to make a difference in so many lives. Preparing for climb No. 3 this year, which began in Las Vegas.

"I climbed March 3 in New Mexico, the Hyatt Regency,” said Wiechecki.

And now she plans on making the climb in her hometown of Providence on Saturday.

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