Motivation Can Go a Long Distance...How Far Can You Inhale?

I am sure many agree that riding back home after a job well done on a rig or vessel is one of the most satisfying moments an oilfield worker has. This heightened awareness not only helps one to appreciate the smells and sounds of life, but it is also an opportunity to think of accepting new challenges and to value what one already has.

It was at this time, enjoying days off with my best friend Roberto, when he told me about Raul Guzman’s battle to live. TWA has given us the opportunity to share a story about a trip we are doing around the world to show that challenges are achievable, even if they seem impossible, such as Raul’s.

Roberto and I are both engineers and have been working for large companies for more than 5 years as a completions field engineer and software consultant, respectively. We have known each other since we were 10 years old, when both of our families joined the same sports club in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Twenty years later, we have been immersed in the corporate ladder and have had short opportunities to get together to exchange life experiences.

A couple of months before our latest get-together, Roberto took a vacation to Oaxaca City, in the south of the country, and stayed with his high school friend, Raul Guzman. Roberto was shocked when he discovered that at age 30, doctors have predicted that Raul has a life expectancy of only 2 more years and a lung transplant is his only hope for the future.

Raul suffers from an inherited, fatal genetic disease called cystic fibrosis (CF). This is a multiorgan disease, affecting primarily the lungs and the digestive system. Thick, sticky mucus clogs the lungs, causing severe breathing difficulty and life-threatening infections. There is no cure for CF and most sufferers die young. Raul’s dream is that people know/learn more about this disease and that those affected by the disease get the proper treatment that might lengthen and improve their life.

In an attempt to raise USD 300,000 to pay for a lung transplant for Raul, Roberto and I have taken a leave of absence from our respective employers to travel five continents with the intention of promoting Cambiando Pulmones (

It is said that travelling opens new horizons and gives you new perspectives; therefore, we would like to share some experiences from our trip. And meeting new people with different mindsets is really what has affected us personally. We have learned a lot on our journey, about different lifestyles and some people’s priorities such as curtailing their daily impact on the environment, maintaining good health, helping others (including ourselves!), and family.

In addition to funny stories, first impressions, and pictures that speak a thousand words, these memorable moments come to mind:

A Colombian crowd’s support during a triathlon we participated in October 2008 completely raised our motivation levels while racing, and was evident when we checked our time results. Personal bests for us both!

The most amazing landscapes were enjoyed after a 180-km bicycle ride from the Ecuadorian Andes that ended in the windy and isolated Peruvian desert.

During an unscheduled stop in a remote community in northern India, we were gladly welcomed, fed, and sheltered although communication was based on hand signals and gestures. Our smiles were the only compensation expected.

What have we achieved during the first 7 months of “Changing Lungs”? 

  1. We cycled from Mexico to Peru in 3 months and were accompanied during 100 km on the first day by 80 other cyclists.
  2. We have visited 11 grade schools and universities throughout Latin America, Australia, and Asia.
  3. We have delivered our message to oilfield employees in North and South America as well as in India and Thailand.
  4. We have had media coverage in all 17 countries we have visited.
  5. Our Facebook page,, has more than 1,800 members and is still growing.
  6. During this project, we completed our first marathon and first half ironman competition.
  7. 20,000 Changing Lungs bracelets have been distributed to raise funds by friends all over the world.

We now face the challenge of continuing with our goals despite a recent devaluation of the currency in our savings. A marathon in Nagano, Japan awaits us as well as many visits to potential sponsors, oilfield colleagues, and elementary students scheduled during the next several months. There is still money to raise and we must keep our motivation, creativity, and hopes high to reach our objectives. We are challenging people to sponsor us during the Zurich ironman competition in July. For more information, please contact me at 


Roberto Montes de Oca R., left, and David F. Alden A.


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