Queen Latifah, Bernie Williams Join in ILD Film ‘Beyond Breathless’

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by Aisha I Abdullah PhD |

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Beyond Breathless

The new documentary “Beyond Breathless,” spotlighting interstitial lung disease (ILD) patients and their families, will feature actress and producer Queen Latifah and former NY Yankee Bernie Williams.

“Beyond Breathless” premieres on the A&E television network on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 12 p.m. EST. 

The Boehringer Ingelheim documentary is the first to focus on the experiences of real people living with rare ILDs, as well as their families, caretakers, and healthcare providers, according to a company press release. ILD encompasses more than 200 lung disorders that can lead to pulmonary fibrosis — irreversible scarring of the lung tissue that impairs lung function.

Both Latifah and Williams lost a parent to an ILD and have been vocal advocates raising awareness of its diseases. 

Williams began fighting against idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) after losing his father Bernabé Williams to the disease in 2001. He has been involved with Boehringer as a spokesperson since 2017.

A Grammy-nominated musician, Williams also has participated in the “Breathless Blowout” campaign in partnership with Minor League Baseball, was featured in a public service announcement, and joined in a songwriting contest. 

The retired star baseball player, who narrates the documentary, signed onto the project in honor of his father and to give other families what his lacked after his father’s diagnosis.

“When my dad was diagnosed with IPF– a type of ILD – we had never heard of it before,” Williams said. “I wish we had the information and resources that are now available to families facing this devastating diagnosis which is why it means so much to me to be a part of this documentary, and I know it would mean a lot to my dad.”

Latifah’s mother, Rita Owens, died in 2018 from an ILD associated with the autoimmune disease scleroderma.

“My mom struggled with scleroderma especially after it progressed to her lungs and that made it difficult for her to breathe,” Latifah said.

“Anything my mom could do to help someone else have an easier journey with their disease, she wanted to be a part of — so it’s important for me to carry on my mom’s mission,” Latifah said. “My hope is that for those living with this disease or caring for someone they love that they know they’re not alone in this fight.”

In August, Latifah participated as a spokesperson for Boehringer’s “More than Scleroderma” digital campaign, recording a video in which she talked about her mother’s diagnosis and journey, as well as her own role as her mother’s caregiver.

IPF and scleroderma-associated ILD are among the hundreds of lung disorders that comprise ILD. Symptoms of ILDs, which include a dry cough and difficulty breathing, are similar to those of other respiratory disorders like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, resulting in more than half of ILD cases being misdiagnosed.

“Our hope is that through ‘Beyond Breathless’ we can educate people about interstitial lung disease and encourage those experiencing symptoms to get an earlier and accurate diagnosis,” said Al Masucci, vice president of the ILD business unit at Boehringer.

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