On February 26th, my husband and I participated in “Hustle up the Hancock” – a stair-climbing fundraiser for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. We took the stairs from the ground level to the observation deck on the 94th floor. This popular event attracts about 4000 climbers each year along with a number of enthusiastic supporters.
Last year, when I did the half-climb, I noticed how crowded the event was and realized that I should be practicing better infection control. This year, I wore my mask. (It’s taken me a long time to get more comfortable wearing masks in public spaces where people are crowded together. Now, I treat it as a social experiment and watch how people react. Perhaps a few grey hairs help give me that perspective.) I knew the mask would be helpful as I waited in the line before starting the climb and afterwards on the crowded observation deck, but I didn’t know about the stairwells. The mask couldn’t be worn during the whole climb for the simple reason that it would restrict my air intake. I started with it anyway to see how long it would be before I needed more air than the mask’s filters could provide. Answer: around 10-12 floors for this very average athlete. I carried it the rest of the way and put it on as soon as I got to the top. But what about the other cross infection issues during the climb itself? Fortunately, the climbers are spread out so it was easy to stay a few feet away from them, but the handrails get frequent use especially when you turn at the landings. Then, cheerleading volunteers hi-five the climbers at two or three points along the way – nice, but not great for infection control. Plus I knew that the air quality would be poorer towards the top of the tower since my scheduled start time was at the end of the day. (One other CFer who did the full climb that day started early in the morning with his team. Much smarter.) Keeping my hands away from my face was the first rule and fairly easy to follow except for the few times I had to stop and use my albuterol puffer. Smiling at the well meaning volunteers rather than touching them was the next rule. The humid air, filled with the exhalations of many climbers could not be avoided, however. So that was the calculated risk.
When I heard from my clinic nurse that the CFF does a stair-climbing fundraiser, I thought it would be fun to climb alongside my team. But then I realized that a stairwell of climbing CF clinicians (however laudatory) would be a much greater infection risk than the cross section of intrepid climbers at the “Hustle”. So I think I’ve chosen the right event: I can climb for an association that supports lung health, it’s local and I’m working on making it reasonably safe.
Hustle up the Hancock website:
An article from the local newspaper: