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New Jersey takes important step to protect youth from tobacco use and save lives

(September 7, 2017) -

Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease affecting more than 140,000 Americans. This chronic lung disease causes irreversible scarring of the lungs, making it nearly impossible for oxygen to pass through the walls of the air sac into the bloodstream and is often fatal, with most succumbing to the disease three to five years after diagnosis.

LUNG FORCE Hero Rachel Szymialowicz, 29 of Ocean County, New Jersey, beat those odds. In 2011, she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis after battling rheumatoid arthritis since the age of four. This past February Rachel received a lung transplant and has new outlook on life.

“Since receiving my lung transplant, so many things have changed in my life,” said Szymialowicz. “While all of this seemed overwhelmingly terrifying when we left the hospital with this precious new gift, the terror subsided over time and was replaced with boundless joy: the joy of being able to sing again, to be with my family, to plan for the future. I have never and will never stop thinking of my donor and their family. This selfless gift has given me a chance to be “Rachel” again and for that I can never truly express my deepest gratitude.”

This September, the American Lung Association recommits its efforts to combat pulmonary fibrosis through research dedicated to finding a cause and effective treatments through the Research Awards Nationwide, and the continued support of individuals diagnosed through in-person Better Breathers Clubs.  Pulmonary fibrosis is unique to each individual and can develop quickly or stay stable for many years.  Better Breathers Clubs offer access to local resources and advice on how to cope with pulmonary fibrosis while getting the support from others who are also living with chronic lung diseases. Local Better Breathers Clubs can be found at 

“Most cases of pulmonary fibrosis have no known cause and currently there is no cure,” says Deborah P. Brown, Executive Vice President, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic.  “There is still much to be discovered on how to prevent and treat this serious lung disease and there is no better time to increase public awareness than during Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month.”

While there is no cure for pulmonary fibrosis, there is much that can be done to live a more active and healthy life.  Along with practicing breathing techniques that help individuals reclaim their breath, pulmonary rehabilitation is a series of education and exercise classes that enable individuals to be more active with less shortness of breath.  Clinical trials may also available to better understand how pulmonary fibrosis develops and may give individuals access to new types of treatment being studied.  A healthcare provider can help determine if enrolling in a clinical trial is the right choice for specific conditions.

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