Scale the Strat brings awareness to lung diseases

LAS VEGAS - More than 700 people are expected to Scale the Strat on Sunday to raise money for the American Lung Association.

Included in that group, are hundreds of friends and family members of Las Vegans who are battling lung disease.

8 News NOW anchor Paul Joncich will among those who scaling the Strat. He recently spent some time with someone who's fighting a daily battle to breathe.

Clem Wiechecki is a man who's led a healthy life. Until October, he walked five miles a day. Even now, you shake his hand and you can tell he's still strong, but he's struggling to breath.

His condition is a good example why people are scaling the Strat on Sunday.

The 75-year-old was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2011.

"Well, it's a situation where it's very difficult to inhale," Wiechecki said.

His disease, one of several lung conditions for which there is no cure, has worsened, to where he now requires oxygen every minute of the day.

"I can't do anything without dragging this hose around with me"

Wiechecki knows he may not have much time left so he's making the most of it, by raising awareness about a rarely talked about disease that kills as many people as breast cancer.

"There's a disease out there that's killing people, there's no known cause, there's no known cure," he said. "It creeps on you and the next thing you know, you got a problem."  

This weekend, several of his friends and family members will join hundreds of others climbing all 108 flights of the Stratosphere Tower to raise money for the American Lung Association.

Wiechecki is not ashamed of the fact, he was the last one to finish last year.

"Climbing it wasn't a big deal, because I'm usually in pretty good shape. The problem is I just can't breathe, so every landing at the Stratosphsere, I had to stop and catch my breath, so it took me an hour and 51 to climb that sucker, but ah, I did it, and we got the job done."

His wife, Debbie, put a Facebook page together promoting her husband's cause. Clem's team will be one of many scaling the Strat, not just for fun, but to help save lives one step at a time.

Wiechecki is not able to climb this year, but about 10 percent of those who'll Scale the Strat are battling some kind of lung condition.

For others, making it up all 108 flights is a celebration of health and a chance to raise money and awareness for the American Lung Association and the services they provide.
    
 


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