Racing for My #LetMeBeYourLungs Partner: Kathleen Richardson
This spring, I was matched with Haylee York as part of Team PHenomenal Hope’s Let Me Be Your Lungs (LMBYL) program. LMBYL matches athletes with PH patients so that we can get to know each other, encourage each other, help to inspire each other as we face our challenges, share each other’s stories, and raise awareness of pulmonary hypertension (PH).
Haylee is a spunky, sweet, caring, and brave six-year old who was diagnosed with PH three years ago. As I’ve trained and raced over the last couple of years, I’ve always kept PH patients in mind, thinking of them, praying for them, and being inspired by them. Being matched with Haylee puts her in the forefront of my mind on most days and, especially during races, and helps me focus.
This June, I participated in the Heartland Olympic-Distance Triathlon, which consisted of a 0.9-mile swim, a 24.8-mile bike ride, and a six-mile run, in Sebring, Florida.
Waist deep in Lake Jackson and gazing out over the distance I was about to swim as part of the triathlon, I was thinking about how far it was and that it was going to be a hard, challenging swim. There was a part of me that wanted to turn around, get back up on shore, and just cheer my friends on. But then I thought, “No, this is what I’ve been training for, day in and day out. I want to be in this race, not on the sidelines cheering. I want to do this for Haylee. I want to do it for my PH friends. I want to do it for me. It will be long, but it will be fun.” I made it through the swim with a better time than the last race I was in!
What I remember most about the bike ride was feeling the tightness in my leg muscles and wondering if I was going to be able to keep up my pace for the whole time. During the six-mile run with the heat beating us down, I kept wondering how much farther we had to go. I guess I do a lot of questioning during races, but then the next thoughts are always one mile at time, one step at a time, and just keep going. I also thought of Haylee and other PH patients. How getting through each day can be like that—feeling the weariness and the strain, knowing it’s going to be difficult, but getting up and doing it, one day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time.
There were challenging moments in the race to endure, and there were joyful and playful moments, like joking with a fellow racer about how we kept passing each other cresting that long hill and speeding down the other side. Or getting soaked by a woman with a huge water gun during the run. Crossing the finish line knowing you’ve made it through. Celebrating with friends who have already made it to the finish line, and those who come through after.
The Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s biennial conference was June 29 – July 1, 2018. It’s always a great experience gathering with PH patients from all over the world and meeting doctors, researchers, medical professionals, and pharmaceutical representatives. It’s a wonderful time to learn more about PH, explore what’s new in research, find out how others cope with the challenges of PH, give one another hope, and have fun.
This year, Team PHenomenal Hope had a booth in the vendors’ area, and we had a great Peloton challenge. Pharmaceutical company CEOs, staff members, Team PH members, and family members had a chance to jump on a Peloton (a fancy stationary bike with some amazing features) to “race for a cure.” It was great to be a part of such a wonderful effort putting in an hour of sweat to see how many miles we all could clock in and how much energy we could put out. Total, we rode 568.88 miles together to defeat PH!
The most awesome part of doing the challenge and attending the conference was being able to meet Haylee and her family. What a blessing to meet them all in person!
I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of Team PH, to be Haylee’s lungs during my races, and to work with my teammates to raise awareness of PH and funding for research to find a cure, and to help to meet the needs of PH patients. I invite you to consider joining us by becoming a member of the team or by donating. Thank you so much.