Just Breathe

As one of AVNation’s resident social media folk, I hope that by now, most of you understand the overall power and value of social media for your business. It can be an invaluable tool for business development, marketing, sales and customer service. However one area that many businesses and individuals overlook is the ability for social media to help effect change. I’ve blogged on this topic several times over the years, and discussed it on AVsocial and in my social classes for Infocomm. There are numerous examples of using social media to educate, fundraise, inform, and rally people for the greater good. Today, I want to share with you one such example.

Stop what you are doing and focus on your breathing for a moment. 

Inhale… Exhale… Inhale… Exhale…

Seems easy, doesn’t it? So easy, in fact, that most of us take it for granted. We breathe all day and all night, every day, and rarely even notice we are doing it. 15-20 breaths per minute, over 20,000 breaths per day.¹ Yet, for millions of Americans, this essential act is not so simple. It is not easy, nor is it always automatic and forgettable. 

My friend Mary is one of these millions. Mary was born with Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia, a rare and incurable genetic disorder that causes her body’s cilia – the tiny “hairs” that move mucus around and out of the respiratory tract – to malfunction or simply not work at all. Without proper ciliary function, mucus is trapped in respiratory passages which results in inflammation, infection and further lung damage. Patients regularly end up requiring intravenous antibiotic courses, or even get hospitalized as a result of the condition. Because PCD is incurable and worsens over time, the best PCD patients can do is to manage their condition and eventually, hope for a lung transplant. Mary’s sister, also a PCD sufferer, had a transplant just last year.

But Mary is not your average PCD patient, because Mary is passionate about two things – raising awareness of this and other lung conditions, and (believe it or not) running.

Mary K, running
Mary Kitlowski, founder, Running on Air

Yes, running. Despite having only 40% of normal lung capacity and despite requiring oxygen supplementation, Mary is a runner. She has run 5K’s, 10K’s, 10-milers, and even a half-marathon… all while wearing a portable oxygen concentrator on her back! As Mary says, “I run because I love to run. I don’t know why, I just do. Running gives my lungs a workout and keeps me healthy. Running feels like an accomplishment. If I can run, I can do anything.”

In October, 2014, Mary started a foundation called Running on Air (www.runningonair.org). The foundation aims to raise awareness about PCD, the PCD Foundation, other lung diseases, and issues facing people who require oxygen. The foundation’s motto is, “Running hard so others can breathe easy,” and that is what Mary does. She is running races around the country and organizing events like a Virtual 5K to improve visibility of this disorder and to raise money for the PCD Foundation.

And, currently, Mary is a semi-finalist in Running World magazine’s Cover Search competition. The magazine is looking for one male runner and one female runner to feature on their cover and in the magazine. One of Mary’s greatest wishes is to win this honor – not for herself, but for the millions of Americans who struggle to breathe daily, since this exposure will help raise awareness of (and funding for) lung disease. Currently, Mary is in 11th place (5th place among women) and there are only a few days left in voting, which ends on August 16th.

All of the Top 10 finalists are considered by the judges for final selection to the cover, regardless of total vote count, so Mary still has a chance at realizing her dream. And you can help. Visit http://coversearch.runnersworld.com/entry/402/ and click on the “Vote” button. You’ll need to log in using your Facebook or Twitter account and follow the prompts, but there are no further obligations. Each person can vote once daily, and if we all do so, Mary can finish strong and hopefully bring awareness of her condition and other debilitating lung diseases into the spotlight.

If you’d like to learn more about Mary and her inspirational story, check out this segment from our local ABC news affiliate – https://youtu.be/lXan5Wv3hwI

Don’t forget: Your vote counts through 11:59pm ET on August 16, so vote daily!

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¹Statistics on the average adult’s breathing from Your Lungs page, American Lung Association website – http://www.lung.org/your-lungs/

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