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Breakthrough screening by National Jewish Health offers hope to COPD patients (Local Tips & Reviews)

DENVER — Seven years ago, Bob Walker’s health was in a downward spiral.

“My lung function was down to 18%,” Walker said.

He was on the list for a lung transplant and failing fast.

“I was 108 pounds when I came here,” Walker said.

But now, the nearly 60-year-old new grandfather is feeling like he has a new lease on life. And he’s no longer in need of a lung transplant.

“It’s awesome,” Walker said. “It’s just awesome. I met my grandson that, according to WebMD, I should have never met because I should have been dead two years ago.”

The wake-up-call for Walker was at National Jewish Health, where he was finally properly diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and put on a rigorous treatment plan.

“With new therapies, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, nutrition,” Walker said. “It’s just cutting edge.”

Researchers at National Jewish Health, along with a few colleagues across the country, have developed a new breakthrough screening tool for COPD called CAPTURE.

“Have you been exposed to cigarette smoke, dirty environments, polluted environments, dust at work?” said Dr. Barry Make, professor of medicine and National Jewish Health.

Make is the senior author of the CAPTURE study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last month.

The first-of-its-kind screening, which centers around five questions, helps primary care physicians identify and diagnose COPD in order to start treatment.

“Before COVID, it was the third-leading cause of death in the United States,” Make said. “If you don’t know you have it, then you can’t do anything about it.”

CAPTURE is among the first tools with proven results. Make says nearly 50% of Americans with COPD don’t even know they have it.

“Don’t attribute what problems you have to getting older,” Make said. “Those who say, “I just can’t do that anymore because I’m getting older.” Well, that may be true, but it may not be true.”

As for Walker, he’s beyond grateful.

“I’m now six years later back to where I was then. So, it’s just been remarkable,” said Walker, whose lungs now function at 30%. “I’m petrified to be on-camera, but I’m so grateful to these people. I’d do anything for them. It’s been great.”

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