IMSA Driver Fischer Using Racing Platform To Help Promote Asthma Awareness
Tuesday, May 1, 2018

IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda driver TJ Fischer remembers vividly the day he thought his racing career was over.

Racing in the Formula Renault 2.0 series in 2015 on the streets of Pau in France, Fischer – who was diagnosed with asthma as an infant – had an attack while in the car and was unable to breathe for more than 30 seconds each lap.

He managed to finish the race but collapsed after the checkered flag.

“Almost having racing taken away from me was the ultimate reality check,” he said. “Now I am able to control my symptoms by following a strict regimen of medication, exercise and nutrition to make sure it never happens again.”

Fischer admits he had not been using his maintenance inhaler frequently and was not listening to the signs his body was telling him. The episode was a turning point for him, and in the fall of 2016, he launched a nonprofit organization, Project O2, as a platform to inspire, inform and innovate a new path to asthma awareness.

Before his transition to IMSA at Sebring this March, Fischer was on the open-wheel ladder competing in USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. Throughout his 2017 season, he engaged over 5,000 families at six race events and partnered with seven organizations nationwide to drive Project O2 mission’s forward.

Over the next two years, his goal is to expand Project O2’s reach to over 100,000 asthma-affected families and raise over $500,000 for asthma awareness and Project O2.

Among the initiatives Fischer has introduced through Project O2 is the #Race2TheRescue campaign, which is a simple, yet effective outreach designed to standardize the distinction between rescue and maintenance inhalers. Through the campaign, corresponding #Race2TheRescue stickers are distributed to asthmatics nationwide via neon orange RESCUE INHALER and neon green MAINTENANCE INHALER stickers.

Most recently, Project O2 partnered with The Fight for Air Climb in downtown Los Angeles in April to raise funds for the Lung Association and the fight against asthma, COPD, lung cancer, and other chronic lung diseases.

Fischer hopes to continue to use the platform that racing provides as a way to spread asthma awareness.

“The education already out there on how to control asthma is amazing, the problem is it’s very unengaging,” Fischer said. “It’s a life-threatening thing, but the trouble is getting kids to listen and engage with the problem at hand. What we’ve found with Project O2 and my whole platform with racing is it’s like showing up to school one day, and there’s an astronaut or a race car driver talking about asthma. Suddenly everyone is listening. It’s a way for someone to engage with something they otherwise wouldn’t care about.

“My story with having an asthma attack during a race, it’s a very relatable situation,” he added. “I was trying to do the sport I love and pursue my profession, and it completely hindered that and put my life in jeopardy. Whatever passions they’re pursuing, it can happen. The key thing in making it preventable is education and awareness of it rather than the actual use of medication. Some people have it, and they have the medication, it’s just down to the knowledge of how to take it, when to take it and knowing the signs and being aware of your triggers.”

Each year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) declares May to be National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. To find out more about future events for Project O2 you can visit www.projecto2.org.

Fischer’s next race with Forty7 Motorsports in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda will be July 26 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.  

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