Persistence pays off for Colorado man with COPD

David W. not only is a patient, but he is patient; not simply suffering from a chronic breathing difficulty, but willing to persevere until he found a way to stem a condition that left him breathless even when simply taking out the trash.

Even before David took early retirement at age 62, the former homebuilder had started to develop chronic bronchitis, caused by a buildup of excessive mucus in his lungs. Mucus once coated his airways all the way up to his throat. Friends and family noticed that his voice was changing. “I felt like, if I didn’t do something, the mucus was going to get to me eventually,” David explains.

His bronchitis eventually led to a diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Now, thanks to a clinical trial at the HonorHealth Research Institute, his voice is clearer, and he has hope for better quality of life.

“The view was worth the climb,” is how David now describes retirement in the mile-high city of Boulder, Colo.

Years of limited breathing

For most of two decades, just minutes of any moderately intense exercise would leave him short of breath.

“I would have to stop what I was doing and gather myself,” says David. “When you have COPD, you can have a hard time just getting dressed, showering or vacuuming the floor.”

For more than a decade, David has used supplemental oxygen when he sleeps, exercises or does anything strenuous. He uses a portable oxygen device when he and his wife, Cheryl, go shopping or go for a walk.

For years, David tried to find some treatment that would help. Once an experimental treatment became available — targeted lung denervation — he then had to wait years to qualify for a clinical trial. The procedure is designed to reduce airway nerve activity linked to COPD flareups.

David was repeatedly tested and rejected for various reasons. At one point, he had to wait until a large enough catheter was created to fit his airways. He once drove all the way to Sacramento, Calif., only to be rejected for yet a different clinical trial. Even after he was accepted into a clinical trial at the HonorHealth Research Institute, he wound up receiving what was a placebo procedure. He was on the non-active arm of a comparative study and would have to wait a year to “crossover” and receive the real procedure.

Finally receives treatment at the HonorHealth Research Institute

In November, on David’s third trip to the Institute, he finally received the real targeted lung denervation procedure, performed by Richard Sue, MD, MBA, a pulmonologist and critical care physician, and an independent member of the HonorHealth Medical Staff, as part of the Institute’s Airflow 3 clinical trial. This non-surgical procedure aims to relax the airways and reduce the production of excess mucus by using a device to ablate certain nerves running along the main bronchi.

“This procedure slowed the overproduction of mucus in my airways,” shares David, adding that chores have become a little easier. “I was really happy to get involved in that (clinical) program, and I’m glad that it might help others in the future.”

He still has shortness of breath, and he still requires supplemental oxygen. But he’s not getting worse.

“It’s been a long haul,” says David. “Hopefully, as the months go by, it will get even better.”

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