NEW ORLEANS, LA | September 14, 2020
New Orleans resident Carol Foster Perez was devastated to learn that her father was living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in 2018, but after meeting an IPF expert at the LUNG FORCE Walk, she found out that he had been misdiagnosed. Unfortunately, it was too late for her father, so now she is sharing her story to raise awareness about lung disease in hopes that no one else must experience what she went through.
In 2015, Perez’s father, Gerald “Jerry” Horace Foster was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease where scarring of the lungs makes it difficult to breathe. Jerry didn’t tell his family about his diagnosis until three years later, when it had progressed to the point that he had to be on oxygen 24 hours a day.
“The day I found out, I immediately got on the computer and did research. I called everyone I knew who was a doctor or a nurse,” said Perez. “A year prior, I helped my mother-in-law raise money for a friend who had a double lung transplant for IPF. I called her and she told me everything she knew about the disease.”
Perez’s friend also introduced them to the LUNG FORCE Walk in New Orleans. In September 2018, Perez and her family attended the LUNG FORCE Walk in honor of her father. At the event, Perez networked with other people who had IPF and met Dr. Joseph Lasky, a researcher with Tulane Medical Center.
A few months later, Perez got her father an appointment with Dr. Lasky. After some tests, Dr. Lasky determined that Jerry had been misdiagnosed. He didn’t have IPF, but an immune system disorder called hypersensitivity pneumonitis from breathing in environmental allergens that inflamed his lungs.
“Daddy grew up on a ranch, he had a greenhouse and cows. All of these places are where this allergen grows. He was exposed to it every day and it was the cause of his respiratory issues,” said Perez.
The doctor treated Jerry with steroids and his breathing immediately improved.
“He got off oxygen and felt great for the first time in five years. He was outside every day and back to doing the things he loved. It was great,” said Perez.
Unfortunately, on Father’s Day in 2019, Perez got an unexpected call. Her father passed away. While hypersensitivity pneumonitis is treatable, his lungs were too damaged after it had gone misdiagnosed for five years.
“Looking back now, everything that happened is so frustrating. He could have been saved. He should have been saved. He was only 71,” she said. “After the correct diagnosis, my father was able to do the things that he loved so much and given his freedom back. Although his passing was unavoidable, it was the LUNG FORCE Walk that improved his quality of life.”
This month, Perez is participating in the New Orleans LUNG FORCE Walk in memory of her father. She hopes to raise awareness and educate people on lung disease, so that other families don’t have to endure the pain that hers did.
“If I can help just one person, I would give anything. I don’t want anyone’s else’s story to be written like my daddy’s because he deserved so much better,” she said. “He was everything to me. The LUNG FORCE Walk has been such a great conduit for that passion and energy. I can’t help daddy, but I can help someone else. The LUNG FORCE Walk has been such a blessing.”
For the LUNG FORCE Walk, Louisiana residents are encouraged to head outdoors to one of the many beautiful parks or trails to complete their walk from September 7-30. Registration for the virtual LUNG FORCE Walk is free, but fundraising is encouraged. Residents can get more information and register at the New Orleans LUNG FORCE Walk website.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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