Taylor Fittje wants to become an Eagle Scout, and so to reach that rank, he designed a community service project around Alpha-1 awareness.
Fittje, of Parker, Colorado, was inspired by his grandfather, Bob Fittje, 63, an Alpha who lives in the same city.
“My grandfather was told in 1994 that he possibly had only months to live, but he is still with us today. If he had been diagnosed earlier in life, he could have avoided smoking, alcohol, and working in an environment with chemicals.”
Fittje wants to inform and motivate others to get tested before they develop severe symptoms. With help from Scouts in Troop 16 and other volunteers, he has reached a large audience by placing information booths near well-traveled locations in his community.
“A person who had heard about my project came from across town to get tested because she had some common symptoms of Alpha-1 and had health issues that were not resolved. But she said none of her doctors had ever even mentioned Alpha-1 or tested her to see if she had a deficiency,” said Fittje.
While researching Alpha-1, he learned that the deficiency is most common in people of Northern European ancestry. As a result, he chose local Lutheran churches with many members of Scandinavian descent as two locations for his booth.
Fittje’s grandfather connected him to the Alpha-1 Foundation where he was directed to Clinical Director Robert A. Sandhaus, MD, PhD. “Without his help,” Fittje says of Sandhaus, “I would not have been able to take my project to this level. He has given me many hours of his time to help me with my project.”
Fittje has distributed hundreds of brochures and fact sheets from the Alpha-1 Foundation in his seven presentations so far.