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Oklahoma City double-lung recipient takes on climbing challenge

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 3, Jonathan Sacker, of Oklahoma City, said a new pair of lungs allowed him to breathe freely for the first time. Saturday he will participate in the 2013 Fight For Air Climb health challenge.
BY ADAM KEMP Modified: February 22, 2013 at 9:06 pm •  Published: February 23, 2013

Each breath of air felt like his last. Jonathan Sacker said it was like he was drowning, but without the water.

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 3, Sacker said walking across his living room used to knock him out due to a lack of oxygen.

On Saturday — less than a year after a double-lung transplant — Sacker will attempt to tackle a 34-story stair climb, taking each step like he did with his labored gasps of air, one at a time.

“I think it will be a great testament that this lung transplant has been worth it,” said Sacker, 32, of Oklahoma City. “Being there at the climb, I think it allows people to see that this is really possible, they can breathe again.”

Sacker and nearly 275 others will participate in the 2013 Fight For Air Climb health challenge at the Cotter Ranch Tower, 100 N Broadway.

Participants will try to ascend nearly 350 feet to the top of the tower. Those who wish to participate can register at 7 a.m. with the climb starting at 8:30.

The event benefits the American Lung Association and its fight against lung diseases. So far, more than $57,000 has been raised.

This time last year, Sacker was in the hospital barely able to breathe because his cystic fibrosis had taken a turn for the worse.

“I got to the point where I was always on an oxygen tank and I had to take that thing everywhere,” he said. “I lost the muscle strength to breathe enough air. It feels like you're constantly trying to get air but you can't do it, like you're breathing through a straw.”

On May 22, Sacker had a double-lung transplant. He said the feeling of being able to breathe freely for the first time in his life was indescribable.

“I used to struggle with the most mundane of things,” he said. “Even just talking on the phone would've taken all my strength. Now I'm walking and running and it just feels so good to be off the couch and out of bed.”

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