UAB patient runs 5K with doctor to spread awareness of genetic disease

UAB patient runs 5K with doctor to spread awareness of genetic disease

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - One woman hoped her determination to run a 5K would help spread awareness of a disease that makes running seem like an impossible feat for many.

Rhonda Schaefer has a genetic disease called Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency, or AATD.

It can cause liver and lung disease, which makes it difficult for her to breathe.

Rhonda Schaefer
Rhonda Schaefer

But Saturday morning, alongside her doctor at UAB, she braved the cold and laced up her sneakers to run the Regions Superhero 5K.

Schaefer said she wanted to run not only for her health, but also to raise awareness about AATD.

“For those that maybe have the same symptoms: shortness of breath, asthma, and they’ve never smoked. Or they have issues with their live and they’ve never drank. I hope if they have those symptoms, then they’ll get tested,” she said.

Schaefer and Dr. Wells running together in Saturday's Regions Superhero 5K
Schaefer and Dr. Wells running together in Saturday's Regions Superhero 5K

“It is very under-recognized,” said Schaefer’s doctor Dr. Mike Wells. “We think that there’s between 4,000 and 10,000 in the state that have it.”

Dr. Wells said he’s inspired by her dedication and drive to run.

Right now, Schaefer, who is also a heart attack survivor, is enrolled in a clinical trial at UAB to evaluate an oral treatment for the disease.

She’s the second person in the world to try the medication.

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