NuvoAir COPD Chronicles: Meet Thomas

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Meera Montan

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Three years ago Thomas found himself desperately gasping for air for nearly 15 hours. He called an ambulance and ended up in the emergency room. It was only then that he learned he had early stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Since then, Thomas’ life has been greatly affected by COPD. He has noticed shortness of breath in routine activities, like walking to the car, and often needs to use his rescue inhaler after climbing stairs. Changes in weather can affect his day as well - hot, muggy days make the air feel heavy and difficult to inhale while cold days take his breath away. All of this can make him feel quite anxious. He certainly has a new appreciation for the little things and notes, “(COPD) made me understand how important breathing is.”

Thomas also suffers from obstructive sleep apnea and uses a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device at night to improve his sleep quality. His sleep apnea along with COPD can cause drops in energy levels during the day. In addition, Thomas is gearing up for a spinal surgery that he hopes will allow him to be more physically active again and enjoy things he likes to do, like bowling! He’s done a great job at losing 20lbs, but still has more weight to lose before he can have the surgery.

With COPD, daily medication is needed to help control symptoms and additional rescue medication can be required for more immediate relief with breathing difficulties. When it comes to medications, he admits that he’s not a big fan, "I just don’t like taking medicine and it seems like I take it for everything. Sometimes I feel like it helps, sometimes it doesn't and I wonder why am I taking it.”

Both his parents smoked for over 50 years and he saw the effects on their health. Although Thomas wants to quit smoking, and has tried, he struggles with success, “I just can’t get over the hump of quitting.” He’s not alone. Quitting smoking is a major challenge for many people living with COPD, who often lack the needed resources or support.

Thomas is 52 years old and lives in Indiana. His pulmonary clinic recently offered him the NuvoAir program to support him with his COPD. NuvoAir helps patients between doctor visits with home monitoring, clinical oversight and COPD management tips and resources. NuvoAir’s care team provides a range of support and resources, including monitoring health data, regular check-ins, education and gentle coaching to help individuals with COPD to set and achieve their goals for healthier habits. Lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity and improved diet can help people to continue to do the things they enjoy. A proven smoking cessation program is also recommended, which meets people where they are in their journey with quitting.

Initially, Thomas was nervous about the technology involved with the program, as he doesn’t consider himself to be very tech savvy. He remembers his early thoughts, “Oh man, I’ve been out of school for 30 years. Now I have to learn something new!” But, in fact, he’s been a quick learner. After some one-on-one video call time with his dedicated Care Coordinator, Beverly, he was able to use the NuvoAir app and home monitoring devices sent to him to track his lung function, oxygen saturation levels and physical activity. Now he finds them all easy to use.

Unfortunately, Thomas lost two close people in his life this year, which has naturally affected his mental health. He realizes that during these times, it can be hard to keep focus on his own health and says, “Speaking to a neutral professional can help to ease depression.” Thomas says he enjoys his check-ins with Beverly, and finds them relaxing and helpful. He recently gave her some terrific feedback - “You’ve explained things to me that I didn’t understand…I enjoy talking to you. You are easy to talk to and you do put a smile on my face occasionally and make me laugh... You give me a sense of happiness.”

With COPD, life is often complex and extra support can go a long way. There is no magic bullet, but working together to track key health data and on improvements such as diet, activity, and medication management can make a major impact. For Thomas, the motivation is clear, “Now that my kids are older, I want to be around to see my grandkids.”

On a scale of 1-10 of how likely he is to recommend the service to a friend with COPD, he gives the NuvoAir COPD Support Service a 10!