Retired New York Yankee great Bernie Williams is collaborating with Boehringer Ingelheim to raise awareness of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in honor of his father, Bernabé, who died of the disease in 2001.
Williams said his father inspired him to become a Major League baseball player. He also taught him how to play guitar, Williams’ second career after retiring from sport.
Williams joined the Breathless campaign to use his family’s tragic experience to help others. He will share the campaign’s videos and educational materials through social media to help educate and empower others.
“Whether I was in centerfield or at bat, my dad was always my biggest fan,” Williams said in a press release. “He seemed invincible. So when he was finally diagnosed with IPF after battling symptoms like breathlessness and a debilitating cough that persisted for many months, it was devastating to me and my family. Sharing my dad’s story is so important because it will help others get the answers they need sooner and easier.”
“Boehringer Ingelheim is proud to partner with baseball legend Bernie Williams, who can speak personally about how IPF affected his dad and his family,” said Al Masucci, vice president of Boehriner’s IPF Business Unit. “Through the Breathless campaign, we hope to educate people to recognize the signs of the disease and take action to see a doctor as early as possible. It is important that a correct medical diagnosis is determined, as IPF is often misdiagnosed.”
IPF is a rare lung disease that leads to permanent scarring, or fibrosis, of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include breathlessness during activity, chest discomfort, dry and persistent cough, weakness and fatigue. IPF is often confused with such conditions as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and congestive heart failure.
Boehringer said estimates are that IPF affects up to 132,000 Americans. Each year about 50,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with it – enough to fill a baseball stadium.
The first treatments for IPF won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in 2014. Ofev (nintedanib) and Esbriet (pirfenidone) can both slow the progression of the disease.
Here is a short clip of Williams talking about his life and the Breathless campaign: