This Sunday, bikers can take a scenic ride around the Sebago region to raise awareness and hopefully money for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) research. Each year 40,000 people die from Pulmonary Fibrosis and Betty Jo Cash wants to find a way to stop this disease that directly affected her family when her father was diagnosed in 2013.
“I don’t want other families to go through what my family is going through,” Betty Jo said.
Betty Jo was approached by a woman who had organized a ride for IPF. She asked Cash to hold one in honor of Cash’s father, David Watts. Watts, a 68-year-old Windham resident, was okay with having the ride, but he wanted the money to go to research for a cure for the disease that was stealing his breath. September is pulmonary awareness month, so the perfect time to hold a fundraising ride.
IPF is a “relentless scarring process of the lung that leaves the patient unable to breathe. PF remains untreatable and terminal.” By not breathing, the oxygen is not moved around the body, delivering needed nutrients to the heart, brain and other vital organs.
Watts is on a breathing machine 24/7. He has a portable machine he calls “his girlfriend,” but that only gives him three hours of air before he has to return home to recharge it, which takes two hours, he said. “It’s frustrating. This thing (the tubing) is always hung up on something. It’s in the way.”
His symptoms were tiring easily and everything was slowing down. “The worst part was getting diagnosed. It took two and a half years to get diagnosed,” Watts said. “For seven years he went to the emergency room swearing he was having a heart attack, but that wasn’t the problem. “They thought I was a hypochondriac.”
Dr. Elizabeth North, finally figured it out, he said. “There is nothing they can do.”
“Dad is very independent,” said Betty Jo. “Now he can’t raise his heart rate. This disease diminishes the quality of life.”
Watts worked at the Brunswick Naval Air Station for 32 years, 20 of those using heavy equipment. He was also a plow driver for the Town of Windham. Now he is a part time worker with the Salvation Army. He likes to be busy and has a good sense of humor.
The Ride IPF starts at 9 a.m. at the Windham Veteran’s Center. Watts will ride in a car, but as a motorcycle enthusiast, he will be happy to hear the rumble from his seat. He misses riding and going to planet fitness to work out. He still drives and is encouraged to keep working as part of his treatment.
Sunday, September 21, it will be kickstands up at 11 a.m. There will be speakers between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. and on the return there will be a barbeque lunch, music by deBreeze N’ Keys, a live auction and T-shirts for sale. The ride is free, but donations are greatly appreciated, Cash said.
Bikers are known for riding for causes. Be it Toys for Tots or against childhood bullying, bikers do so much for so many,” said Cash’s husband, Norm.
“When they’re out there rattling your windows, it’s for a reason,” Watts said.
The initial goal was to have 50 bikes signed up, but now on Facebook there are over 173 signed up.
“It’s important for me and for everyone to see him. He’s a national hero. This is our two time Vietnam Vet. See he’s a real person,” Betty Jo said. “We need a cure. People don’t realize this disease is as prevalent as it is.”
“I asked my doctor if there was anything in the pipeline for this disease. She said the Chinese have a good start on something. It wouldn’t be in time for me,” Watts said.
For more on the ride visit www.rideIPF.com or visit them on Facebook – Riding for Pulmonary Fibrosis. For more on IPF, visit www.CoalitionforPF.org. Not a motorcyclist? Donations can be made directly through either website.
“We don’t care what you ride,” Betty Jo said. “You can even ride a Schwinn, if you can keep up.”