Raising awareness and funds for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) research is a cause that Mary Rockensies of West Hempstead and her family are most passionate about. This passion was ignited after the otherwise healthy and active 77-year-old was diagnosed with the condition just one year ago.
An avid walker who did not engage in smoking or other behaviors related to the development of the condition, Mrs. Rockensies and her family were surprised to learn the lingering dry cough from which she suffered was a symptom of IPF – a chronic disease characterized by a progressive decline in lung function with no known cure. Now, Mrs. Rockensies, with the full support of her family, including her husband, Raymond, of 58 years, is committed to raising awareness for the disease. The Rockensies’ six children, along with their spouses, formed the Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation and in July, hosted a special dinner dance at the Coral House in Baldwin. Over 300 people attended the fun-filled evening that boasted wonderful food, music and raffle prizes.
Family members of Mary Rockensies (seated in green), who established the Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation in her honor, came to NYU Winthrop to present a check in the amount of $50,000 in support of Interstitial Lung Disease research at NYU Winthrop.
As a result of that successful event, as well as a separate shopping event at Coquette in Garden City, and donations from family and friends, the Rockensies recently presented a check to NYU Winthrop in the amount of $50,000. The funds will be directed towards the Hospital's Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) program and research under the direction of pulmonologist Jonathan Ilowite, MD, Director of the ILD Program and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at NYU Winthrop. Among the things Dr. Ilowite and his team will examine is exhaled breath condensate to look for fragments of micro DNA to see if they can find a pattern among IPF patients in order to better pinpoint which therapies are most suitable to treat them.
"It is our hope that our research will detect patterns of micro DNA that will identify subsets of patients most likely to benefit from current and future therapies, and to aid in the earlier diagnosis of this devastating disease," said Dr. Ilowite. "We are most appreciative of the support from the Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation to help make this research possible."
In the meantime, Mrs. Rockensies, who is most grateful for the care she has received at NYU Winthrop through a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, is hopeful that research efforts in this field of medicine can one day open up new treatment options and promise for future patients diagnosed with IPF.
"I never want to give up," said the grandmother to 19 grandchildren and one great grandchild. "We're going to do everything we can to fight and make sure other individuals who are diagnosed with IPF are given the best chance for recovery."
The Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation will host their second annual fundraiser at the Coral House on July 14, 2017. For more information, visit the Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation page on Facebook. For more information about pulmonary care and the Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) program at NYU Winthrop, visit www.winthrop.org.