Posted on November 25, 2015 |
To say the members of our COPD community are resilient is an understatement. COPD advocate Orlan W. Holmes of Fort Wayne, Indiana exemplifies the fighting spirit that we see in so many who refuse to be defeated by COPD. A single father and sole provider, Orlan raised three children as he worked many jobs to make ends meet. He was the Assistant Manager at Dollar Tree when he became sick with pneumonia and spent 13 days in the hospital. He was diagnosed with severe COPD and cardiomyopathy, and his eldest daughter was told to put his affairs in order – that was 13 years ago.
We followed up with Orlan to learn more about his remarkable story of survival, hard work, and advocacy.
How did your COPD diagnosis change your life?
This was the first time I heard of COPD. I went from working full time to being totally disabled in just under two weeks. The first impact on me was financial. I had to cash in my 401k to survive until I received my first disability check. My breathing was labored and I was soon on oxygen all the time. Hills, walks, and cold weather – perfumes, car exhaust, vacuum cleaner dust, and many other things caused me to lose my breath. I became more and more sickly and was in and out of the hospital many times over the next 10 years.
Did you make any changes to the way you lived after the diagnosis?
I went to cardio-pulmonary therapy. This helped a lot and gave me strength to continue. I quit smoking and then qualified for a double lung transplant. I tried to get one at a local center and they told me my only hope was the Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic accepted me and I spent the next 3 years waiting for a phone call.
While I was waiting, I met some wonderful people that were involved with the American Lung Association of Indianapolis. I started attending their Healthy Lung Expo. I also became acquainted with the COPD and the Alpha-1 Foundations. My friends started an Alpha-1 Support group in Fort Wayne and I proposed that we make it a COPD and Alpha-1 Support group. My offer was accepted.
On August 3, 2012, I received a phone call from Cleveland Clinic and I received new lungs. All went well until six months out when I had complication. I spent the next two months in the hospital. My complications caused my liver and kidneys to shut down, besides giving me congestive heart failure. They eventually changed my medications and things have gone pretty smoothly since then.
What advice do you have for other family members coping with a COPD diagnosis?
For family members and caregivers I would advise you to be patient. Slow down and wait on those of us that can’t breathe. Be positive and supportive if possible at all times. Be patient, we not only move slower, our brain doesn’t process as well as it used to. Sometimes it takes it longer for us to process what we want to say or understand others.
What inspired you to advocate for COPD awareness and become a COPD State Captain?
After my double lung transplant one of the things I wanted to do was to give back to the community. I became the State Captain for COPD, I co-chair the Alpha-1/COPD support group, and I am on the advisory board for the American Lung Association of Indianapolis’s Lung Force Expo.
I also do volunteer work with Indian Donor Network. I sign people up to be organ donors. I also go to several local universities to talk to nursing students, pharmaceutical students and respiratory therapist students about COPD and Alpha-1.
After I received my double lung transplant there were two things I wanted to do: first, go home for Christmas, I hadn’t been home for Christmas in over 30 years; second, complete the American Lung Association Stair Climb, and walk to the top of the Chase Tower in honor of two friends of mine that are no longer with us.
What are your goals for the COPD community?
Goals for the COPD community should be to advance any cures for any type of breathing problems. This means working closely with groups, like the Alpha-1 Foundation, EFFORTS, the American Lung Association, asthma patients, and many more groups. Through a combined effort from many groups, we can all make a change in politics as well as through cures and getting medications at a reasonable price.
Orlan Holmes took a dire situation and persevered. He triumphed over the obstacles in his life, set ambitious goals for himself, and then demonstrated his commitment to help others and give back to the community. We appreciate Orlan for his invaluable contribution to raising awareness for COPD and educating others. Connect with Orlan and other inspiring individuals like him on COPD360social.org.
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