Lung disease survivor hustles up the Hancock

February 28, 2011 4:33:18 AM PST
The 14th annual Hustle Up the Hancock fundraiser for the Respiratory Health Association of Chicago was held Sunday.

In addition to a range of individuals and corporate teams -- including three climbers from ABC7 -- there was one woman in the crowd whose presence at the starting line proved she'd already conquered great heights.

Pamela White of North Carolina, a survivor of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS -- a lung condition that robs a person's ability to take a deep breath, and in 70 percent of cases, leads to death.

"My blood got so thin that it just seeped out of all of my veins it was running our of my nose and my mouth. It started filling up my lungs," White said. "I was drowning in my own blood."

White spent three weeks intubated on a ventilator last year fighting for breath. The research into ARDS treatment and prevention paid for by the Hustle and other events likely had a hand in saving her.

So on this day, when she set out for the half climb -- from floors 42 to 68 -- she was grateful.

"I want to thank every person who gave whatever they could it made a difference," White said. "This is my celebration, it is a celebration everyday. I feel so lucky I could do this, I didn't know if I could make it to the top!"

White did make it to the top.

Nationally, 150,000 people come down with ARDS every year and White is now part of long-term research study into the disease -- a study that has already found scientifically that a strong will to recover plays a key role in success.