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February 14. 2014 11:41PM

Teaming up to fight pulmonary fibrosis


Auburn resident Ron Geoffroy poses with a photo of his wife of 30 years, Mary Lou, who died in 2011 of complications following a double lung transplant aimed eliminating pulmonary fibrosis. The couple were co-founders of the Second Wind Foundation, which combats the disease. (RYAN O'CONNOR/Union Leader Correspondent)

AUBURN -- Though relatively unknown to most people, pulmonary fibrosis carries devastating effects. Ron Geoffroy understands that all too well.

A longtime Auburn resident, Geoffroy lost his wife of 30 years, Mary Lou, to complications following a double lung transplant aimed at curing the rare and typically fatal disease in 2011, less than three years after the otherwise healthy 56 year old was initially diagnosed.

"At the time (of the diagnosis), we were like, 'OK, what's pulmonary fibrosis?'"said Geoffroy. "We didn't quite know, so of course we went right to the Internet to to start checking things out and finding out all about it, and then we came to realize that not a lot of people know what pulmonary fibrosis is - certainly not our friends and acquaintances."

Without a successful lung transplant, the average lifespan for someone diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis is 18 months to five years. About 40,000 people a year are lost to the disease, Geoffroy said.

In 2010, while Mary Lou was still fighting the disease, the couple connected with someone who had lost a grandfather to pulmonary fibrosis. The three founded the Second Wind Foundation for Pulmonary Fibrosis and began organizing events to raise awareness about the disease and generate funds to assist families dealing with its effects.

The Second Wind Foundation relies primarily on three fundraising events, including this week's second annual "Give a Gift of Breath" evening with the Manchester Monarchs.

The AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings hosts the Portland Pirates at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22, and for each $20 game ticket the foundation sells, $8 will go toward raising awareness and finding a cure for pulmonary fibrosis. The price also includes a free "chuck-a-puck,' which provides attendees a chance to win a shirt, hat or tickets from the Monarchs. In addition, 20 ticket holders will get to hold the American flag on the Verizon Wireless Arena ice during the national anthem.

The 2013 Gift of Breath fundraiser drew 125 people, and Geoffrey said he and other organizers aim to top that total this week.

"Last year we gave a $3,000 grant to Mass. General Hospital to continue research that could someday lead to a cure," he said. "This year we're hoping to double attendance, and in turn double our grant donations."

Give a Gift of Breath tickets for the game are available exclusively online through the Second Wind Foundation at www.secondwindforpf.com or via email at Events@SecondWindforPF.com.


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