HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – According to the American Lung Association, nearly 37 million Americans live with a chronic lung disease, from asthma to lung cancer.
A South Florida firefighter is leading the way in an effort to raise funding and awareness to help combat lung disease.
In his career as a firefighter, Peter Berger has faced many challenges but he never gave much thought to his own health until 2008.
“I started to feel, I guess, ill and I couldn’t catch my breath,” he said.
Berger was subsequently diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD.
“At that age I didn’t want to hear that. I thought I had a cold,” he said.
He’s accepted the diagnosis but said lung disease doesn’t define him.
“It’s just what I’m dealing with on a daily basis. It hasn’t stopped me from being a firefighter at all,” Berger said.
To control the symptoms he takes medication every night and carry’s and inhaler with him through his days both at home and on the job with the Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue Department.
“Managing to me is making sure every day I have a clean breath of air,” Berger said.
He expressed gratitude for the support he’s received from the Broward County Sheriff and Fire Chief, which will allow him to take a symbolic first step for his team in the American Lung Association’s ‘Fight For Air Climb-Miami’ on March 4.
“Last year I dedicated the climb to firefighters that couldn’t and who had lost their battle, to regular people who I work with; parents and grandparents who have lost their battle,” Berger said.
Due to recent hip surgery Berger won’t be able to participate in the climb but said he’ll be doing it in spirit.
“It’s the one selfless act we can do is to raise awareness for someone who can’t take a breath,” he said.
Proceeds from this years’ events, here and around the country, will also support the American Lung Associations new COVID-19 action initiative.
To learn more go to: www.FightForAirClimb.org/Miami