Bernie Williams Honors His Dad: Yankees Baseball Legend Raises Awareness For Lung Disease

Puerto Rican former professional baseball player, Bernabé Williams Figueroa Jr., better known as Bernie Williams, is teaming up with Boehringer Ingelheim to raise awareness of a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) that his father suffered from for years before he passed away in 2001. Back in Puerto Rico, Williams' father, Bernabé Williams, inspired him to play baseball and make it to the Major Leagues. He also taught him to play guitar, which has become Williams' second career since retiring from baseball.

In honor of his father's battle with IPF, Williams has joined the "Sin Aliento" campaign to turn his family's devastating experience with this rare lung disease into a chance to help other families.

Williams hopes to educate and empower others who think they may have IPF to seek early diagnosis and treatment. "Whether I was in centerfield or at bat, my dad was always my biggest fan. He seemed invincible. So when he was finally diagnosed with IPF after battling symptoms like breathlessness and a debilitating cough that persisted for many months, it was devastating to me and my family," said Williams. "Sharing my dad's story is so important because it will help others get the answers they need sooner and easier."

Benie Williams Bernie Williams honors his dad by joining the "Sin Aliento" campaign to encourage those who may have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Photo: Getty Images

IPF is a rare and serious lung disease that causes permanent scarring of the lungs, and makes it difficult to breathe. Symptoms of IPF include breathlessness during activity, a dry and persistent cough, chest discomfort, fatigue and weakness. Although considered "rare," IPF affects up to 132,000 Americans, and according to the The Lancet, Hispanics are more likely to suffer from the disease with a 15% higher incidence than the general population. Also, about 50,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed every year with IPF – enough to fill a baseball stadium.

The symptoms of IPF are similar to, and often confused with, other more recognizable diseases such chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or congestive heart failure. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first drugs specifically indicated for the treatment of IPF.

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Shirley Gomez has been exposed to many aspects of the art world. Besides being a Fashion Journalist, she studied Fashion Styling and Fashion Styling for Men at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, Interior Design at UNIBE and Fashion Design at ITSMJ Fashion School in the Dominican Republic. She worked as a Fashion Journalist, Fashion Stylist and Social Media Manager at one of the most recognized magazines in the Dominican Republic, Oh! Magazine, as an occasional Entertainment Journalist, of the prestigious newspaper “Listín Diario”, as well as a fashion collaborator of a radio show aired in 100.9 FM SuperQ. When Shirley is not writing you can find her listening Demi Lovato or Beyonce's songs, decorating her apartment or watching Family Feud.