Saturday: Tampa Firefighter To Climb 42-Story Skyscraper To Celebrate Recovery From Life-Threatening Illnesses

Rush Roberts is gearing up for the Fight For Air Climb Tampa at Bank America Plaza on April 6

For Tampa firefighter Rush Roberts, every breath is a gift. That’s because complications from an early case of COVID-19 nearly claimed his life. This Saturday, he will celebrate how far he’s come by joining hundreds of first responders, community members and lung health advocates to climb 42 floors of Bank of America Plaza, Tampa’s second tallest building. Roberts, an 18-year firefighting veteran and father of three, will be raising awareness and critical funds to end lung disease by taking part in the American Lung Association’s 19th annual Fight For Air Climb Tampa, presented by Raymond James.

“The Fight For Air Climb means something to me personally—I know what it’s like to literally fight for air,” said Roberts, who also serves as Secretary of the Firemen's Benevolent Association of the City of Tampa. “I’m participating for myself and others who can’t.”

In early 2020, Roberts was in peak physical condition, participating in marathons, triathlons and multi-day cycling events. That changed suddenly when he contracted one of the earliest cases of COVID-19 in Tampa during an emergency rescue call.

“Everything was still so new. We didn’t know what to expect,” Roberts recounted. “By day four, I felt a little strange—like I’d eaten ice cream too fast. It’s only when other people were telling me I was noticeably out of breath that I went to the hospital. In addition to COVID, I’d developed pneumonia in both lungs.”

This was only the start of Roberts’ lung health journey. He returned to work and shook off concerns from family, colleagues and friends. Eventually the pain in his chest brought him back to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with pleurisy, an inflammation of tissue lining his lungs, and bi-lateral lung infections. A few months later, he was back in the hospital. An X-ray of his lungs revealed “the most blood clots that my hematologist had ever seen,” Roberts said. He was immediately put on blood thinners.

After those harrowing months, his health started improving. His doctors attributed his recovery to the lung capacity he had developed with his fitness training. However, as a driven person, it was difficult for him to recognize that his limits had shifted when it came to exercise.

“My experiences with COVID and everything that followed was mentally taxing. I was angry and frustrated that I couldn’t get back to where I was. I couldn’t play with my kids without struggling for breath,” said Roberts. “But eventually, I’ve gotten to a place where I’m no longer driven by an impossible challenge. I’m just enjoying the journey and activity, and not worrying about keeping up with others.”

As the Secretary of the Firemen’s Benevolent Association of the City of Tampa, Roberts leads its charitable community work. The organization is a proud sponsor of the Fight For Air Climb Tampa.

Roberts is excited to tackle Bank of America Plaza’s 914 stairs in full gear. He’s been training several times a week and always takes a selfie at the top of the stairwell to acknowledge how far he’s come.

Roberts added: “It’s extremely satisfying to climb to the top of a skyscraper. When you get to the top, you feel like you can achieve anything. No one can take that feeling away. I’m encouraging the community to come out and join us.”

Join Roberts and hundreds of other lung health advocates from the Gulf Coast and beyond at the 19th annual Fight For Air Climb Tampa, presented by Raymond James, on Saturday, April 6 at Bank of America Plaza. Participants can form a new team, join an existing team or register as an individual climber. Registration is $35, with a $100 fundraising minimum. For more information, visit ClimbTampa.org.

To request an interview with Rush Roberts, please contact Victoria O’Neill via email at [email protected] or call 312-273-5890.

Raymond James & Associates, Inc., is a member of the New York Stock Exchange/SIPC. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of The American Lung Association.

For more information, contact:

Victoria O'Neill
(312) 273-5890
[email protected]

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