Friday, February 25, 2011

“I had to take climbing Mount Everest off my ‘bucket list.’ The Gulf Tower is now my Mount Everest.”

The idea of climbing Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain in the Himalaya Mountains, has been a challenge long coveted by climbers, adventurers and sports enthusiasts alike.  It no doubt has been on the ‘bucket lists’ of many.  Pittsburgh’s Robert Trozzo, a retired Air Force and Navy Chief Petty Officer and divorced father of one, was one such person.  Over five years ago he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a type of lung disease, and so there’s a different “mountain” he’d like to climb – the ‘Fight for Air’ Climb at the Gulf Tower, an event benefitting the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania March 19.

“I suggested the idea of participating in the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb to my pulmonologist, and he thought it was a good idea,” said Mr. Trozzo.  I had to take climbing Mount Everest off my ‘bucket list.’  The Gulf Tower is now my Mount Everest.”  And perhaps with good reason.  “I want to bring more awareness to the disease,” he says.  “IPF is not as prevalent as many of the lung diseases we typically think of, such as lung cancer and COPD, but it is just as serious.”

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is the scarring, thickening or stiffening of the lungs.  A chronic, progressive form of lung disease, it makes it increasingly difficult for those who suffer with the disease to breathe.  Approximately 200,000 Americans are affected with IPF.  There is no known cause of the disease, and the average life expectancy is three to five years.

“I get breathless very easily.  It is like a slow suffocation,” he says.  “Imagine this – I was in the military my whole life, and now there’s very little strenuous activity I can do anymore.”

Ironically, the stairs of Bob’s two-story home are the biggest challenge he faces with IPF.  “Stairs seems to be my big nemesis.  Shopping is also a problem because it’s difficult to carry bags and manage an oxygen unit at the same time.” 

Mr. Trozzo has received the green light to climb the 700-plus stairs of the Gulf Tower by his doctors and will be climbing on team "Simmons Center for IPF".    Right now, he works out three days a week at a pulmonary rehabilitation facility and has been an amazing asset to the Fight for Air Climb committee.  He has helped spread awareness of the event, IPF, the ALA, and trying to create several teams for the Fight for Air Climb, encompassing friends and health care associates.  Thank you Bob!

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