Local Respiratory Therapist Sheds Bright Light on Her Career and Volunteer Efforts for LUNG FORCE Run/Walk

Leia Kennedy shares her personal connection to lung cancer, her lifesaving career and how community members can join the cause

Registered respiratory therapist at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Leia Kennedy recalls her father, former military, frequently saying “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em” when she was growing up. 

“It has only been a year since my father died from stage 4 lung cancer,” Kennedy solemnly shares. “That horrific experience of seeing my father struggling to breathe the last year of his life, coupled with my experiences as a respiratory therapist is why I am passionate about keeping my family and our community healthy. Everyone needs to be aware of the dangers of smoking, early detection of lung cancer through lung cancer screenings and the importance of general lung health,” declares Kennedy.

While being a respiratory therapist was not Kennedy’s first choice, she considered the option as there was no waiting list into the program at the time. As a single mom, Kennedy could not wait, and she has not looked back. “I am convinced that things do happen for a reason. I absolutely love what I do!” Kennedy brightly remarks.  

As a respiratory therapist, primarily in the cardiovascular ICU, Kennedy shares that she helps patients on their journey through the lung transplant process. In addition, Kennedy also cares for patients with COVID and helps educate patients with asthma and COPD. 

“Being in the healthcare world right now, is a challenge nearly every day,” states Kennedy. “Often individuals don’t act on their symptoms until it is too late. Some patients don't understand how to properly take their medications and many simply run out of their medications or aren’t able to get them as they are just so expensive. The list of unfortunate circumstances goes on and on. As a respiratory therapist I try my best to provide the best care possible, to educate my patients and make certain they are aware of available resources, like the American Lung Association, that can help provide lung health screenings and support.” 

Kennedy, who recently became a volunteer for the Lung Association, shares her enthusiasm for her participation in the upcoming LUNG FORCE Run/Walk that will take place Saturday, October 15 at Folly Beach. “I have never been good at fundraising in the past, but this cause is something I am very passionate about. So much so, that my team’s name is ‘Loco for Lung Health’. I am excited for my family to be a part of this community, so I can share my story and hear other inspiring stories. I’m hopeful that with our collective efforts, we will be well on our way to making lung cancer a thing of the past,” remarks Kennedy.

The LUNG FORCE Run/Walk is a celebratory and welcoming event that provides critical funds for lifesaving lung cancer research, early detection initiatives, local programs and resources and awareness outreach to vulnerable communities. For the event, participants can run, walk or stroll a 5K on the beach beginning at the Dunes House beach access at Folly Beach County Park. 

“Someone is diagnosed with lung cancer every two and a half minutes and four in five of those diagnosed will ultimately die of the disease,” said Rebecca Balitsaris, senior director of development for the American Lung Association in South Carolina. “But there is hope. More Americans than ever are surviving lung cancer. The survival rate has increased by a dramatic 13% to 22.6% in the last five years. At the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk, Charleston residents will come together to take small steps to make bold strides to end lung cancer.”

The American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE initiative unites women, men, and caregivers across the country to stand together against lung cancer, the leading cancer killer. Through education, advocacy and research, LUNG FORCE works to provide hope to all those impacted by the disease and save more lives.

Money raised at the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk will fund the American Lung Association in South Carolina’s efforts to end lung cancer and lung disease, through local programs, advocacy efforts and research.

Registration for the Charleston LUNG FORCE Run/Walk on October 15 is $30 for adults and $20 for children. For more information and to register, visit LUNGFORCE.org/Charleston.   

For more information, contact:

Jill Smith
[email protected]

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