“National Jewish Health didn’t hesitate for a minute,” Mark McCormick said of his care for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – a deadly lung disease with no cure. The same can be said for Mark, who has dedicated himself to living life to the fullest, supporting other patients and participating in clinical research.
Four years ago, after complaining about a persistent cough at his annual physical, Mark’s primary care doctor ordered a chest x-ray. However, Mark never received the results and assumed everything was normal. The following year, he still had the cough and another chest x-ray was done.
A few weeks later, Mark received a letter in the mail telling him that his diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis was “unchanged.”
He immediately looked pulmonary fibrosis up on the internet. “It took my breath away. Here is this disease that I had never heard of, and it’s saying that the prognosis is three to five years,” he said.
Mark felt like he had already lost a year of his life. “I might have done things differently,” he said.
‘The Best in the Business’
He was referred to a pulmonologist who told him to go to National Jewish Health, which was only a few miles from Mark’s home. “The doctor told me that they are the best in the business,” he said.
A few weeks later, Mark came to National Jewish Health. Tristan Huie, MD, a pulmonologist who specializes in pulmonary fibrosis, led his care.
After receiving a full workup, including a sleep study, imaging tests and a lung biopsy, Mark learned that he had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Doctors use the term “idiopathic,” because they cannot pinpoint the cause of the injury that leads to a relentless buildup of scar tissue in the lungs.
As Mark had read on the internet, there is no cure for IPF, and most patients live three to five years.
He immediately joined a clinical trial of an experimental medication. While that proved to be ineffective, he is now enrolled in another trial.
‘So Much to Live For’
Mark decided to retire so he could focus on his health and enjoy life with his family. He immediately took over the National Jewish Health IPF patient support group and also created a website for the group.
“People receive this diagnosis, and they go home and prepare to die,” Mark said. “They have so much to live for.”
Mark and his wife also bought an RV and plan to spend the next several months traveling with family, including a trip to Alaska.
“If I don’t do it now, I might not be able to,” he said.
And, he feels lucky to have found National Jewish Health. His disease is stable right now, and he only needs supplemental oxygen when he exercises.
“People who get to National Jewish Health late can’t believe what they are missing,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the doctors – it truly is a center of excellence. I’m very pleased to be a part of it.”
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