By Alan Collins
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A man who spent years pushing for safety improvement to Interstate 20 is now picking up a new cause, one that threatens his life.
Mike Blazer lives in Heflin. He used to live in Pell City. Blazer and others campaigned for years to make I-20 safer with concrete barriers after a number of traffic fatalities.
Early in 2009 Blazer discovered he was coughing a lot and couldn't catch his breath. Later a doctor told him he had pulmonary fibrosis.
"It was devastating," Blazer said. "He told me there was not any treatment but a lung transplant. I didn't know how to deal with it."
Blazer said he went into a bit of a depression but later, thanks to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, he pulled out of it.
"The people at the foundation told me to hang in there, you will learn to cope with it," Blazer said.
Researchers at UAB are working on the deadly disease.
"We are close to understanding what causes pulmonary fibrosis," Dr. Joao de Andrade, Associate Prof. of Pulmonary medicine said. "But, we are a long way from finding effective therapies."
Each year in the United States, 128,000 people are diagnosed with the pulmonary fibrosis and 40,000 die from it. The researchers said they need people to help with their research in determining the cause of the disease and developing treatments. The school also has support groups for patients.
Blazer, 57, said he wants to become an advocate.
"Make awareness of it," Blazer said. "As we come together as a group learn more abut this, that way we can get better recognition and start getting funding for research."
Blazer wants to get donations to sell on the internet where 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. This keeps Blazer's spirit high.
"I'm going to hang around for a while," Blazer said. "I won't let this get to me that way."
For more information, visit www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org, www.uab.edu/pulmonary, or email Blazer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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