With every stride, Chris Sadleir is one step closer to his goal of completing a 500-kilometre walk from Lethbridge to Edmonton in hopes of raising awareness about lung disease and $50,000 for the Lung Association of Alberta and Northwest Territories.
The journey itself was already arduous but it was made even more difficult as much of Alberta has become shrouded in a heavy haze of smoke from the B.C. wildfires.
Sadleir said he’s accustomed to the heat, but the smoke is impacting him greatly.
“I’m not a finely-tuned athlete, but I do have a good set of lungs, and I’m exhausted,” he said in Calgary on Thursday.
Sadleir said he started feeling the effects Wednesday as he travelled through Okotoks and High River.
“I could not get in enough oxygen,” he said. “I could not take in enough air — proper air — and it’s from the smoke.
“You don’t realize how thick it is, with a healthy set of lungs… My eyes are burning. My throat doesn’t feel right. It’s all from the smoke. I didn’t even factor that in.”
Sadleir’s journey began in Lethbridge last week. The walk is in its second year and was inspired by his father: a double-lung transplant survivor.
“I just thought it was time to do whatever I could to honour my father,” he said.
Wildfire smoke in B.C. has been drifting into Calgary and surrounding areas, prompting a special air quality statement.
At its peak on Thursday, the air quality health index for Calgary was at a level 7 – a high-risk level. In Edmonton, it reached level 8 on the AQHI 1-10 scale.
EMS public information officer Stuart Brideaux said those who should be more concerned are people in the higher-risk categories, which includes seniors, children and people with lung and heart conditions.
“Folks who have underlying health conditions, especially breathing like asthma, bronchitis or emphysema, should be taking more precautions or staying out of the outdoor air,” he said.
People who are doing strenuous activities outdoors should also be mindful of their tolerance and symptoms and go inside a home or building with filtered air, Brideaux said.
“If you’re cycling, biking, again, monitor your symptoms for what you think is your level of tolerance for it,” he said. “If you can feel your body is not able to cope (and are) experiencing symptoms you likely wouldn’t have, (you) can chalk it up to the air quality and it’s best to go inside.”
As for Sadleir’s journey, he said he will continue on but will take breaks as required. He still plans to walk at least 30 kilometres per day.