Bringing Awareness to COPD

Crystal Shoemaker, Certified Respiratory Therapist and Russell Walton

November was Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness month and WVU Medicine Potomac Valley Hospital worked to raise awareness of the disease.

COPD refers to a group of progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis and non-reversible asthma. It is the third leading cause of death and the fourth leading cause of disability in the United States. The leading cause of COPD is smoking, but other causes have been linked to chemical fumes, dust, pollution, poor indoor air quality, respiratory infections, and certain genetic factors.

While there is no cure for COPD, it is important to remember it is often preventable and treatable. WVU Medicine Potomac Valley Hospital’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program aims to help those who have been given a diagnosis of COPD. This outpatient program provides participants with disease education, psychosocial support, smoking cessation, dietary consultation, breathing techniques, and specific strength training. One of the most important aspects of the program is the focus on nicotine education and cessation. Cessation is important in helping COPD patients achieving increased quality of life.

Cigarettes are not the only concern when discussing “smoking.” According to the National Institute of Health, nearly a third of 12th graders reported using vaping devices in the past year. E-cigarette use is becoming a dangerous trend, one which has a strong tendency to lead to smoking tobacco.

When asked, “What do you think when you see a teen or young adult smoking or using e-cigarettes? What would you like to share with them?” Pulmonary Rehab patient Russell Walton answered, “Look at me. I smoked for years. I have to wear this oxygen around because I didn’t take care of myself. There are even examples of cancer in the family that smoking played a big part in. I wish I could reach them and they would say I don’t want to end up like that.”

In an effort to raise COPD awareness, Potomac Valley Hospital (PVH) instituted a multifocal approach. PVH collaborated with the local high school to provide important information to students to share with their peers. PVH also observed The American Cancer Society’s “Great American Smokeout” on November 21. This challenged employees who smoke to give up cigarettes for 24 hours. Those who participated were provided with items and tips to help support their efforts for the day. In addition, PVH offers smoking cessation classes to those who have decided to take the step towards quitting smoking forever.  If you or someone you know wants to quit smoking, call 304-597-3565 to sign up for the next Freedom from Smoking group session.