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Racing for a reason

Organ donor and volunteer David Murphy is running his first marathon to raise awareness about lung disease research at the U

David Murphy holding a picture of his late mother, Judy Murphy. (Submitted photo)

It’s 5:45 a.m. and attorney David Murphy, 40, is lacing his shoes before heading out of his St. Paul home for a run. This routine is part of a training regimen for Murphy’s numerous 2012 races, which will culminate in his first 26.2-miler—the Twin Cities Marathon—in October.

Murphy is running to bring attention to the work under way at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Lung Science and Health and to honor his late mother, Judy Murphy, who had battled idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) before receiving a lung transplant in 2001. IPF is an incurable lung disease that causes lung scarring, slowly reducing lung function to zero.

“Mom’s boundless spirit and courage inspire my work for the center,” writes Murphy in his blog, Courage of Your Lungs, where he reflects on his marathon training, volunteer efforts, and experience as an organ donor. “I am not running because I should. I am running because I can. Running and jumping and breathing and laughing are all gifts not to be squandered. That helps me get out of bed, helps me lace my shoes, and helps me to keep going.”

Back in 2001, when his mother’s prognosis was bleak, Murphy and his aunt were selected as the best matches to serve as donors for Judy’s living-lobe lung transplant at the University. Both donated a part of one of their lungs—giving Judy a second chance.

“After the transplant,” Murphy says, “Mom played golf, she went back to work, volunteered at the U, and started a nonprofit, Hope Chest News, to raise awareness of lung disease and lung health. She felt a lot of responsibility to keep going because she knew how lucky she was to get this second chance.”

In addition, Judy and her husband, John Murphy, pledged $1 million to establish an endowed professorship in gratitude for care provided by Marshall Hertz, M.D., a professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care, and Sleep in the Department of Medicine. “Mom and Dad grew to know what a special person [Dr. Hertz] is through Mom’s illness,” David Murphy says.

While after the transplant, Judy no longer battled IPF symptoms, she died from complications of pneumonia in 2005.

Now Murphy is following in his parents’ footsteps by making regular financial contributions to the U’s lung research and by serving as chair of the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s Lung Advisory Committee, which supports the University’s fundraising initiatives in lung health.

Murphy leads 10 volunteers and three doctors, who all have had their own experiences with lung disease or the center. Their goal is to spread the word about lung health and to raise $35 million to support lung-health initiatives.

“If you raise awareness and expose people to all the amazing breakthroughs in research at the center, support will come naturally,” Murphy says. “It’s hard not to be excited and amazed by what’s happening. There’s no better place than the U.”

By Karin Miller

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