Loyola nurse can breathe easier knowing donations will help lung care
MAYWOOD, Ill. -- While climbing 94 flights of stairs will make most breathless, this trek will leave Loyola University Health System lung transplant nurse Jennifer Johnson breathing easier knowing that 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. 28. She will take to the stairs at 8 a.m. to raise money for lung disease research, advocacy and education. This will be Johnsonâs fourth climb to the top of the John Hancock Center.
âThis climb will be an opportunity to push myself just like my patients push themselves every day,â Johnson said. âThey will be my inspiration, as I scale the steps and become winded.â
Johnson is part of the largest and most successful lung-transplant program in the state of Illinois. She plays an integral role in obtaining donated lungs for patients who need the organ transplant to survive.
Johnson became involved with the Hustle up the Hancock after former Loyola patient Steve Ferkau, 49, invited her to participate. Ferkau underwent a double-lung transplant in 2000 after suffering from cystic fibrosis for nearly 40 years. With the help of the care he received at Loyola, he was able to make a full recovery. This Sunday, Ferkau will lead a team of 95 people to the top of the Hancock in memory of his organ donor. This climb would not have been possible without the gift of her lungs. To have a Loyola lung transplant nurse by his side throughout this is a great honor, said Ferkau.
âWhile several people take their time doing the climb, Jen does it as fast as possible, so that she is winded at the finish line,â said Ferkau. âShe likes to do this to see what it feels like to be in her patientsâ shoes and gasping for breath. This empathy is part of what make her such an amazing nurse.â
This yearâs climb hits a little closer to home for Johnson. In August, her husband, Mike, 36, was diagnosed with a rare lung disorder. When she makes it to the top of the Hancock, she hopes he will feel well enough to welcome her across the finish line.
âI never imagined that my experience with lung disease would impact my own family,â Johnson said. âClimbing 1,632 steps is the least I can do to support my husband and my patients who struggle with every breath.â
Johnson has done a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training to prepare for the climb. Her personal best is 17:56, and she hopes to do it this year in 16 minutes or less. To date, she has raised approximately $1,250 for this cause.