Fuseworks Media

The one-lung man on a mission – Asthma and Respiratory Foundation

A former army soldier with barely one functioning lung is planning to climb the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro.

Adam Faatz, a 36-year-old American man, was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in 2018 and hopes to scale African mountain in January to raise money for charity and awareness of this rare respiratory disease.

IPF is a condition that causes scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs which, in turn, makes it difficult to breathe. It affects roughly 5 in every 10,000 people, however it is not known exactly how many people are currently living with the condition.

Faatz says there is no cure for IPF, and life expectancy, for most, is about five years.

“I know I’m in the 1% that have already outlived that prognosis, so why not spend whatever time I have left to raise money for the charities who are trying to help.”

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ are among the charities Adam is helping to raise funds to support.

Foundation Chief Executive Ms Letitia Harding says Adam’s determination to raise awareness of a disease we still don’t know a lot about is courageous and inspiring.

“Conquering Mt Kilimanjaro is no small feat and symbolises an uphill struggle against respiratory diseases.

“He is breathing life into our mission and spreading hope to those with IPF.”

Faatz’s disease was discovered by accident when the damage had already been done.

It is believed to be a result of the burn pits used in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was deployed as a US Army solider.

At the time of discovery, in 2018, surgeons had to remove most of his left lung. The disease has now spread to his right lung.

“After my diagnosis, I felt like I didn’t have a purpose,” Faatz says.

“It contributed to my mental health struggles, it drained bank accounts, caused anxiety and depression, and made me feel isolated. I felt numb.

“I know what it’s like to suffer, but I also know that you can overcome it,” he says.

“I just needed help, and now I want to help others.”

To come to terms with his diagnosis, Faatz turned to the outdoors and became the first person with IPF to climb New York’s Mt Marcy.

Mt Kilimanjaro, standing at about 20,000 feet, is his next challenge. It will take nine days.

If successful, Faatz will be the first person in the world with IPF to complete this – and the first person to climb it with less than one working lung.

“This has been a long and challenging journey, but I wanted to prove that those living with pulmonary fibrosis can still be resilient even when living with a debilitating illness,” he says.

“At this moment, I want to seek adventure and thrills for as long as I can and I’m doing it for all of us in the IPF community.”

 

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