On Aug. 3, 2003, Stacey Li Collver of Redwood City, CA, was diagnosed with a rare lung disease called Lymphangioleiomyomatosis. To Stacey, an avid rock climber and cyclist, the diagnosis was devastating. The disease was already at an advanced stage, and to survive, she would require a lung transplant (at the time there was no therapy or cure for the disease). Stacey spent the next 14 months on oxygen and received a double lung transplant in November of 2004.
“It was my hobby to do long distance charity rides before I got sick,” says Stacey. “After the transplant I had a big setback, and didn’t recover completely.”
Still, she found her way to Breathe California’s annual Bike 4 Breath event and got involved in organizing and supporting Team Second Wind, which consists of 30 lung disease patients and their supporters. “Eventually I did get strong enough to participate as a rider,” says Stacey, whose doctor also joined the team. In 2012, inspired by her friend, Anabel Stenzel, she began captaining the team with Kara Borowski and still does so to this day.
Unfortunately, Stacey is now in chronic rejection, and her lung function has dropped to 27%. She is on the waiting list for a rare second lung transplant.
“I still think it’s fun to do the event even though I can’t actually ride,” says Stacey. “I email, organize and hang out in the wheelchair and cheer people on.”
Stacey has always encouraged people to exercise, whether it be climbing, cycling, badminton or soccer. She managed a climbing gym and coached a youth competitive team. One of her young students was Josh Levin, who went on to become a professional climber, and appeared last summer on the popular American Ninja Warrior show. He dedicated his appearance on the show to Stacey (watch his dedication video) and also raised awareness about the importance of organ donation.
“I am very grateful to my first anonymous lung donor, who enabled me to live an extra 12 years,” she says.
Stacey continues to inspire others to exercise, and to support Breathe California’s efforts to make it easier for people like her – and everyone in the Bay Area — to breathe more freely.
“Breathe California is a great advocate for fighting for clean air and it’s an issue that affects all of us. I really appreciate the work that Breathe California does in terms of advocating for health causes and the stop smoking program, which is so important.”
Learn more about Stacey and Team Second Wind in Breathe California’s latest video.