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Terminally Ill Man Completes Marathon While Toting Oxygen Tank

  • VOA News

A terminally ill man finished the Seattle Marathon with an oxygen tank in tow.

A terminally ill man finished the Seattle Marathon with an oxygen tank in tow.

A terminal case of pulmonary fibrosis wasn’t enough to keep Evans Wilson from finishing a marathon.

Wilson, 63, finished the Seattle Marathon in just under 11 hours November 27, and toted an oxygen tank the entire way.

He said he wanted to raise awareness of the disease as well as to raise up to $50,000 for research into a potential cure.

His time was three hours less than his goal of 14 hours.

The former runner, who was diagnosed with the debilitating lung disease at age 57, told the Seattle ABC TV affiliate KOMO that he felt pretty good after the effort.

"I'm in pretty good shape if I didn't have heart and lung disease," Wilson said.

Pulmonary fibrosis causes scarring of lung tissue, and can be caused by exposure to particles, genetics or autoimmune diseases.

Wilson said he first noticed something was wrong when walking up a neighborhood hill left him breathless. After years of tests, doctors finally gave him the grim diagnosis and told him most people with the disease only live for three years.

It has been five years.

"It's a terminal disease and a progressive scarring of the lungs that is currently irreversible," Wilson said. "I've lived five years and I'm one of the fortunate ones and I'm doing pretty well."

The American Association for Respiratory Care says up to 40,000 Americans may die of the disease annually. The only known treatment is a lung transplant, Wilson said.

Wilson was given a one hour and fifteen minute head start on the rest of the field. His wife and another volunteer took turns rolling Wilson’s oxygen tank over the 42-kilometer course.

"I was in first place at mile 6 with some of the fastest marathon runners in the world behind me," Wilson said. "The first 10 miles actually felt kind of good."

Wilson added that other runners were very supportive.

"A lot of them, they'd give me a clap as they'd run by," said Wilson, explaining others had seen him on TV as he trained. They said "'I saw you on KOMO, way to go!' It makes you feel good."

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