MAYWOOD, Ill. - While climbing 94 flights of stairs would make most breathless, this trek will leave Jennifer Johnson, a Loyola University Health System lung transplant nurse, breathing easier knowing she is raising money for a good cause.
Johnson will join more than 4,000 people for the Hustle up the Hancock this Sunday, Feb. 24. She will take to the stairs at 9:15 a.m. to raise money for lung disease research, advocacy and education. Johnson expects to finish in 30 minutes. This will be her seventh climb to the top of the John Hancock Center.
“This climb will be an opportunity to push myself just like my patients push themselves every day,” Johnson said. “They will be my inspiration, as I scale the steps and become winded."
Johnson is part of the largest and most successful lung transplant program in Illinois. She plays an integral role in obtaining donated lungs for patients who need a transplant to survive.
This year’s climb hits a little closer to home for Johnson. In 2010, her husband, Mike, 39, was diagnosed with cryptogenic organizing pneumonia, a rare lung disorder. Mike’s lungs function at 60 percent, which leaves him winded after simple tasks such as picking up their 2-year-old son Cooper. Despite this, he is not letting the disease get in his way. Mike will join his wife on the 1,632-step climb for the first time since his diagnosis. The pair has been training together for the last several weeks and plans to cross the finish line hand-in-hand.
“I never imagined that my experience with lung disease would affect my own family,” Johnson said. “Climbing to the top with my husband is the least I can do to support him and my patients who struggle with every breath."
The Johnsons will be surrounded by family and colleagues who are members of Jennifer’s team, Loyola’s Lung Angels. The group has raised more than $5,000 for the Respiratory Health Association’s lung disease research and programs.