Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on August 30, 2012


Gerald Staton, MD, professor of medicine, Emory University Hospital; board member, American Lung Association Southeast. David Schulman, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine, Emory University Hospital. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. American Lung Association. National Lung Health Education Program. WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: “COPD – Exams and Tests. "Barreiro, T. American Family Physician, March 2004; vol 69: pp 1107-1115.News release, American Thoracic Society.

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Video Transcript

Terry Coker, COPD Patient: Ok Troops

Narrator: Terry Coker is one of the most positive employees at old fashion foods in Austell, Georgia

Terry Coker, COPD Patient: I love it. I absolutely love it.

Narrator: The fact that he has to be connected to an oxygen tank in order to check off his to do list doesn't seem to matter. Terry – who is 59 – was diagnosed with COPD – or, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – four years ago.

Terry Coker, COPD Patient: I have been trying to make the best out of it since. I have no regrets. I have a good quality of life, I do just about anything I want to do.

Narrator: Terry's blocked airways are due to a combination of factors: He had asthma as a child, his parents were heavy smokers and he had a hereditary predisposition to COPD due to alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency.

Terry Coker, COPD Patient: I actually am, I know this sounds crazy, I'm in better health now than I probably was two or three years ago because of the exercise and rehab. Nancy I am going over to rehab now.

Narrator: Terry faithfully goes to pulmonary rehabilitation several times a week.

Marilyn Reasor, Pulmonary Rehab Program: These are people who have always been active all their life, and because of their limitations with their shortness of breath they start limiting their activities and then they become de conditioned.

Donna Riley, Respiratory Therapist: Pulmonary rehab is a change of life. This is the beginning of a journey.

Narrator: For example, when Loretta Freeman came to pulmonary rehab she could not even step onto the treadmill by herself.

Donna Riley, Respiratory Therapist: But now she is able to function at home. She goes up and down the stairs. She is able to do 30 minutes on the treadmill. We also know that when they have strong leg muscles they can walk easier and get up and down.

Narrator: When COPD patients become less active and more dependent on others a vicious cycle can set in.

Donna Riley, Respiratory Therapist: It's easy for them to get depressed and downhearted and with their shortness of breath, they frequently have periods of what we call panic attacks.

Narrator: This makes them anxious and even more likely to limit activities.

Donna Riley, Respiratory Therapist: One of the most important things that I try to teach them is how to manage their shortness of breath so they won't have those panic attacks. We have known many times shortness of breath could be caused by fatigue of respiratory muscles.

Marilyn Reasor, Pulmonary Rehab Program: The good news is we can make those muscles stronger. If we make the respiratory muscles stronger, it increases endurance.

Narrator: Learning how to manage their COPD is also empowering. Better breathers clubs – sponsored by the American Lung Association – are a source of education and support:

Marilyn Reasor, Pulmonary Rehab Program: We are very proactive about teaching them when to call the doctor, what are signs of an infection.

Narrator: Patients are reminded to get the pneumonia shot and yearly flu vaccines and to work with their doctors to find the right medication regime.

Dr. Gerald Staton, Board Member, American Lung Assn.: Many of these patients can live long and productive lives but they're going to have to stop smoking. They've got to take their medications, they've got to do their exercise, they've got to do their treatments on a regular basis.

Narrator: Those are steps Terry Coker has taken. He did have to give up long distance motorcycle riding… But he still gets on the golf course…and travels with his wife. The secret to his success:

Terry Coker, COPD Patient: Stamina first, attitude second. And then on certain days attitude first, then stamina second.

Narrator: For WebMD, I’m Rhonda Rowland