MAYWOOD, IL – Just months after receiving a lung transplant for the second time, graphic designer Steve Krupowicz is planning to climb to the top of a 94-story skyscraper.
“I’m not doing it for myself,” he said. “I’m doing it for all the people who are waiting for a transplant.”
Mr. Krupowicz, of Lemont, Illinois, (right) is one of three Loyola Medicine lung transplant patients who plan to climb all 1,623 steps to the top of Chicago’s John Hancock Center in the Feb. 26 Hustle Up the Hancock fundraiser for the Respiratory Health Association.
“Climbing up the Hancock Center illustrates how a determined patient, with a strong support team, can make a complete turnaround,” said Daniel Dilling, MD, Loyola’s medical director of lung transplantation.
For 29 years, Loyola has operated the largest and most successful lung transplant program in Illinois. Loyola has performed nearly 900 lung transplants, by far the most of any center in Illinois. Last year, Loyola performed 40 lung transplants, which is more than all other programs in Illinois combined. Loyola’s lung transplant program regularly evaluates and successfully performs transplants in patients who have been turned down by other centers.
Mr. Krupowicz will lead a 57-member team of climbers, called Lungs A Go Go, which is expected to raise as much as $10,000. Loyola also sponsors a team, Loyola’s Lung Angels, which includes patients, family members, doctors, nurses and dietitians. Loyola’s team includes lung transplant recipients Christopher Pry of Cary, Illinois and Sean Sullivan of Olympia Fields, Illinois.
“Each year I do the Hustle, I am amazed at the tenacity and drive of our patients who choose to climb with us,” said Jennifer Johnson, RN, BSN, Loyola’s lung transplant coordinator. “Bravo to them! They continue to inspire me.”
Mr. Krupowicz, Mr. Pry and Mr. Sullivan all were born with cystic fibrosis. The progressive disease causes thick fluid to form in the lungs and other organs, making it increasingly difficult to breathe. Before their transplants, they found that walking up a single flight of stairs would leave them gasping for breath, even when taking supplemental oxygen.
It is difficult for a person with normal lung function to comprehend how debilitating advanced lung disease is, Dr. Dilling said. Patients typically are on supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day, and even simple tasks such as brushing their teeth leave them exhausted. “Climbing up the Hancock Center illustrates how a determined patient, with a strong support team, can make a complete turnaround,” Dr. Dilling said.
Mr. Krupowicz, 45, received a double-lung transplant in 2008, and began participating in the annual Hustle up the Hancock in 2009. He underwent a single-lung transplant at Loyola in May, 2016 after experiencing problems with his right lung.
Since 2009, Mr. Krupowicz has participated in Hustle up the Hancock every year except 2016. His best time was 36 minutes. “I do it every year to prove to myself that I’m still healthy,” he said.
Mr. Sullivan received a double-lung transplant in 2014. He said he is doing Hustle up the Hancock, for the second time, to “honor my donor and their selfless gift.”
Mr. Pry will be doing his third Hustle up the Hancock. It took 1 hour, 14 minutes in 2015 and 46 minutes last year, and he hopes to finish this year in less than 35 minutes. Mr. Pry also ran in the 2016 Chicago marathon, but had to drop out at mile 17 due to a knee problem.
Mr. Pry is climbing this year in honor of his mother, Donna Johnson, who died last year. “She was always there by my side,” he said.
Hustle up the Hancock is the Respiratory Health Association’s major fundraising event. The money raised is used to promote healthy lungs and fight lung disease.