August 3, 2010 >> back to issue

PH Awareness in the Mississippi Bayou

Lil Long and journalist friend Anne MartinLil Long (pictured left) with WXVT-TV anchor
Anne Martin after a recent speaking engagement
at her local Kiwanis Club.
When PH patient Lil “Catfish” Long embarked on a lifestyle change last summer through daily swimming exercises, her husband Henry Earl was so impressed by her progress that he began telling friends she’d be able to swim across the Mississippi River within the year.

Now Lil is proving her husband right with plans to swim the Mississippi River on September 4, 2010, in order to raise funds and PH awareness. Beginning her excursion at Catfish Point, near her hometown of Duncan, Miss., Lil will swim the width of the mighty river and end up 1.25 miles away on its Arkansas shore. On this journey, she will be trailed by a boat full of close family, friends and medical personnel.

Lil, whose full name is Elizabeth Battle Long, has named her event “The Long Battle for Nicky” as homage to her best friend Nicky Roberts, who was also diagnosed with PH and lost her struggle against the disease in 2007.

Lil’s fierce determination to accomplish her year-long goal of swimming across the Mississippi River began grabbing the attention of local and regional media as early as fall 2009, heightening PH awareness in the Delta region. “The Long Battle for Nicky” garnered much media coverage, including live interviews and feature segments with Mississippi Delta Region and Memphis, Tenn., CBS affiliates, two feature stories in The Delta Democrat Times and a feature in The Commercial Appeal, the predominant daily newspaper in Memphis.

Speaking invitations and engagements soon followed, and Lil found herself sharing her remarkable journey with approximately 150 people through her local Kiwanis, Exchange and Rotary Clubs.

To kick-off the weeks of excitement and anticipation leading up to the official swim date, on Saturday, July 31, Lil hosted “The Long Battle for Nicky” gala fundraiser to support PHA’s Research Program and patient/caregiver resources and services. The event drew a vast local crowd of approximately 250 attendees, including members of the local media. Honoring Nicky’s fun-loving spirit, the evening featured lively jam rock music, dancing, and more than 150 items for auction.

Lil Long with her husband Henry Earl LongLil Long with her husband Henry Earl Long at
Saturday's fundraiser
Lil explains what planning her fundraiser and preparing for her upcoming swim means to her on a personal level: “Pulmonary hypertension is such a serious disease, and I am ashamed to say I never knew anything about it until Nicky died. Living in the south means a lot of people live in rural areas. The most rewarding thing about having this benefit is that I have talked to so many people who thought they were alone until they read one of the articles. Getting the word ‘out there’ about PH is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and I don’t intend to stop.”

On the Monday prior to Lil’s July 31 fundraiser, the Commercial Appeal ran a feature story on Lil, Nicky and “The Long Battle for Nicky” fundraiser and swim, which also discussed the definition of PH, symptoms and risks.

Read "The Long Battle for Nicky" feature in the Memphis Commercial Appeal

Read more about Lil and Nicky’s friendship and Lil’s journey with PH

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