Today, John Hall rides his bicycle two to four miles every day.
John Hall, 72, of Sheridan, Wyo., was devastated when his doctor told him that his lungs were scarred from exposure to asbestos and that he would only live two to three years with the condition.
“The doctor said that my only treatment option was a lung transplant,” said John. “Unfortunately, I was too old for a transplant.”
John worked for years in a coal mine in Montana, and it was his job to dispense welding gloves and blankets made of asbestos to the miners. His doctor believed that prolonged exposure to asbestos was the cause of John’s shortness of breath.
John found National Jewish Health through a program for miners diagnosed with occupational lung diseases in the Division of Environmental & Occupational Health. The doctor here recommended that John see physicians in the hospital’s Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) Program. The program treats lung diseases that are characterized by scarring, also called pulmonary fibrosis.
“I was so down about my diagnosis that I got a little bullheaded and never made an appointment,” said John. “I spent the next year waiting to die. Every time my breathing got worse, I thought to myself, ‘Is this it?’”
A newsletter from National Jewish Health would change John’s life forever. “I read about a study for a treatment for pulmonary fibrosis,” he said. “I thought it sounded very promising, so I called the hospital to find out if I could volunteer for a study using this treatment.”
When John called, he reached Carol Bair, Clinical Coordinator for the Interstitial and Autoimmune Lung Disease Programs. While enrollment for the study hadn’t begun, she recommended that John come to National Jewish Health for an assessment to determine if he could qualify for future studies.
“It is because of Carol that I ended up there,” said John. “In my mind, she saved my life and gave me so much hope.”
In February 2012, John and his wife traveled from Wyoming for his appointment. Evans R. Fernandez Perez, MD, MSc, an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine led his care. After undergoing five days of testing, John was stunned to learn that he did not have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
“Dr. Fernandez told me that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was the main cause of my breathing problems, and that it was treatable,” said John. “I wanted so much to live. You can’t believe how elated I was.”
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, affects millions of people each year. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two main forms of COPD, and most people with COPD have a combination of both conditions.
While at National Jewish Health, John took part in pulmonary rehabilitation classes that helped him learn how to exercise and manage daily tasks with his condition. Now, with oxygen therapy and medication, John has hope for the future.
“My wife and I bought tricycles, and we ride two to four miles a day on the bike trails around our house. There is a basket for my oxygen tank on the back,” said John. “I am getting the exercise I need to get stronger.”
“I can’t say enough about the care I received,” he said. “What they did for me psychologically and physically is incredible. National Jewish Health has given me the opportunity for an extended and fuller life.”
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