Documentary ‘Up for Air’ Aims to Inspire CF Patients to Become Active in Their Own Healthcare

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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The Boomer Esiason Foundation (BEF), a partnership of medical and business leaders dedicated to increasing awareness, education, and quality of life for people living with cystic fibrosis (CF), recently announced the premiere of the documentary “Up for Air” on June 20 in a private screening in New York City.

The documentary follows CF patient Jerry Cahill, a 59-year-old pole-vaulting coach, before and after having a double-lung transplant. Through his devoted approach to physical fitness and strict medical treatments, Cahill has lived more than 20 years past his first life expectancy prognosis.

Cahill is a well-respected CF community ambassador and a committed BEF contributor, taking charge of the scholarship and grants division. He is also the founder of a series of outreach programs such as “You Cannot Fail” – a program that includes apparel, a website, an autobiographical coffee table book, and two children’s books – and Team Boomer, the athletic arm of BEF dedicated to encouraging exercise for CF patients while also raising money for scholarships.

“Jerry continues to inspire and empower not only the CF community, but also everyone he meets in life. The ‘Up for Air’ documentary showcases his relentless approach to life that is bound to motivate film watchers,” said BEF Founder Boomer Esiason, whose son Gunnar suffers from CF, in a press release.

Jerry Cahill has overcome all medical expectations. As he nears his 60th birthday on June 27, he has become living, breathing proof that CF patients can have a normal life through a steady commitment to exercise and medical compliance. Besides what he already does for the community, Cahill records educational podcasts and videos in his blogs “Jerry Cahill’s CF Wind Sprints” and “Jerry Cahill’s Cystic Fibrosis Podcast,” and encourages people with CF to share their stories on another project called “Club CF.” In addition, he has completed two 500-mile “Bike to Breathe” bike tours.

The projects Cahill gets involved in reflect his leadership-by-example attitude, with his belief that exercise is the single most important thing in his life that keeps him healthy while living with the disease.

Artem Agafonov directed and produced the film, which was shot over five years, highlighting Cahill’s positive attitude as he overcomes daily challenges common to CF patients. The goal is that viewers understand the importance of Cahill’s daily medical regimen, which includes pills, intravenous therapies, and respiratory treatments. The documentary follows Cahill’s lung function decline until he reaches 19 percent lung capacity, where a double lung transplant becomes imminent.

The film’s premiere will take place at the New York Institute of Technology Auditorium, with filmmakers, members of the cast, and BEF employees in attendance. The event will conclude with a post-screening panel discussion with Cahill and the director of the film.

An additional screening will take place on Cahill’s 60th birthday at the Kendall Square Cinema in Boston, and a third screening is planned on Sept. 19 at the New People Cinema in San Francisco.

Organizations interested in screening the film can contact Christopher McEwan. The full documentary will be accessible online starting in early 2017 (trailer available here).

“I am honored and excited to share my story. One of my life passions is to help people find their inner hero. Everyone faces hard times, and I truly hope viewers of ‘Up for Air’ will feel encouraged to face each obstacle with strength and courage,” Cahill said. “I want to thank the Boomer Esiason Foundation, director Artem Agafonov, and the many sponsors of the film for their belief in me and this cause.”

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