High Rise Climb For Lung Association Fundraiser

(March 28, 2010)

san-francisco-chronicle

March 28, 2010

Christopher Mora-Posey could only watch last year as fellow San Francisco firefighters scaled the 1,197 steps to the top of the former Bank of America building on California Street to help raise money and awareness about lung disease and asthma.

"I showed up in moral support," the beefy 41-year-old San Francisco firefighter recalled Saturday. He was lucky to even do that.

Mora-Posey was just out of San Francisco General Hospital, where he had been in a coma for three weeks, his lungs having collapsed from severe burns when his ventilator mask was jarred loose in an explosion at a Portola district house fire Feb. 5, 2009. He also was treated for a torn shoulder and other wounds.

On Saturday, after months of rehab and conditioning, he was back - not as a supporter, but as a participant in the American Lung Association's fourth annual skyscraper stair climb.

1,200 climbers

He was among 50 San Francisco firefighters and 1,150 other well-conditioned souls who clambered up 52 stories through the heart of the former Bank of America building.

At the top, he enjoyed a celebratory bagel with his son, who made the climb with him. Then he went back to the bottom and ran up again - this time with a firefighters' air tank on his back to add to the challenge. It took him, he said, 17 minutes.

"Last year, I could barely make it up a few steps. This year, I made it up over a thousand," he said. "I'm satisfied - trust me. I envy people who went up in full gear - that's hard. It's hard to go up without anything."

About 25 firefighters went up in full firefighting regalia - tanks, coats and breathing apparatus - an outfit that weighs about 70 pounds.

Asthma no obstacle

Mora-Posey's injuries also caused him to develop asthma, but that didn't slow him down. He came equipped with an inhaler, which he used before ascending. Mora-Posey said he went up twice to be a "positive role model and be a good morale booster" at the Fire Department.

While not fully recovered - his lungs are at 90 percent - Mora-Posey was slowed on his first run up the stairs. That's because his 9-year-old son, diagnosed with Type I diabetes soon after the fire - had to take breaks.

"He is my role model," he said of his son, Siano Valle-Posey.

When Mora-Posey decided to go a second time, fellow firefighters urged caution.

"I just wanted to see if I could do it without stopping," he said. "I didn't stop. This is another steppingstone for me to get back to work."

Mora-Posey said he had suffered what could have been a fatal dose of carbon monoxide in the fire.

"I'm a spiritual person," he said. "There had to be God or angels looking over me. That and all the thousands of prayers from everyone helped."

'You will be tested'

Greg Collaco, a firefighter who oversaw emergency services for Saturday's event, said he has been doing the climb for four years, first as a participant, then a team leader. He said under normal conditions, the event is "challenging."

"Cardiovascularly, you will be tested," he said. "The lungs go before the legs do."

But for Mora-Posey the legs and the lungs went and went and went - up 104 stories worth of stairs.

"I didn't think I was going to be able to do it," he said.

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