‘Lung Disease Doesn’t Define Me;’ Local Firefighter with COPD Climbs 1,000 Stairs to Support Lung Health

Peter S, Berger climbs Hard Rock Stadium to raise money to end lung disease, COVID-19

On March 6, Peter S. Berger, a firefighter with Broward County Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Medical Services Program Director for HCI College Fort Lauderdale Campus, will suit up in full gear to climb the stairs at Hard Rock Stadium. He will lead his EMS student team at the Fight For Air Climb event in Miami to raise money and awareness for lung cancer and all lung diseases, including COVID-19.

Berger has been a firefighter for 18 years. In 2008, he began getting bronchitis often, and the day after he worked, he would have difficulty breathing.

“I got really ill. We looked into it and my lungs were damaged. I ran an air quality test and discovered we were living in a highly toxic environment. Since I was always short of breath, I had a bronchoscopy and they found mold spores in my lungs,” said Berger. “At 36, I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that I got from a mold at a fire station.” 

Berger found a local pulmonologist and began medication to help manage his lung disease. 

“In all honestly, my health is really good. It is rare that I am short of breath,” he said. “If I have a problem, I have an inhaler with me. I live with this disease, but it doesn’t define me.” 

Three years ago, Berger discovered the Fight For Air Climb when he was searching for a new physical challenge. He signed up for the event and challenged himself to do the climb.  The next two years he challenged his students to join him in the stairwells of One Biscayne Tower. Each year, he climbs to honor someone who can’t.

“Last year I dedicated my climb to firefighters who lost their battle with lung disease and some others who are suffering or suffered from lung disease. I wore my bunker gear, put masking tape on my gear, and then put their names on it.  Then I carried them with me. One of the people on my gear was my mother who suffered from breathing difficulties,” he said. “I want to show my students that I am doing this for people who can’t. It is the one selfless thing that we can do. At the end of the climb, they felt so fulfilled.”  

This year, the Fight For Air Climb Miami will look a little different. For the safety of participants, staff and volunteers, the Lung Association has moved the event outdoors to Hard Rock Stadium. The event will raise money and awareness for lung cancer and lung disease, as well as support the organization’s new COVID-19 Action Initiative. Because of his continued passion for the cause and the event, Berger has taken the role of Corporate Chair of the Fight For Air Climb this year. 

“Everybody knows somebody who has been effected by something with the lungs. Our lungs are one of the more important organs in our body and we can’t take them for granted. We have to protect these organs because once they are damaged, they are damaged for good,” said Berger. “I love the work that the American Lung Association is doing. It has opened my eyes about the importance of education. We all know about COVID-19, but you don’t really know until you see it. I lost my 96-year-old uncle to COVID. I know that the Lung Association has been on top of COVID-19 education and they are investing to research.”

The Miami Fight For Air Climb is on March 6 at Hard Rock Stadium. Registration is $35 and includes a $100 fundraising minimum. For more information, and to register, visit FightForAirClimb.org/Miami

Your safety is always our number one priority. We are continually monitoring local conditions that might affect your Climb. Check your local Climb website for the most up-to-date information.

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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