NEW ORLEANS -- There is no cure for COPD, but there are treatments that many patients and doctors are unaware of. Now, a famous newsman and his wife are making sure local patients have that opportunity.
Louisiana has one of the highest rates of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, better known as COPD, a chronic lung condition that steals not only years, but quality of life.
TV news journalist Ted Koppel, and his wife Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, are in New Orleans to change that.
"I couldn't walk half a block. I couldn't sleep at night. I was sitting up with pillows propped behind me. I couldn't go up a few steps," remembers Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, President of the COPD Foundation and President of The Dorney-Koppel Family Charitable Foundation, Inc.
Although she quit smoking 25 years ago, the damage had been done.
In 2001, Grace Anne was diagnosed with COPD. She was in a wheelchair with 25 percent lung function. She was given a few years to live needing constant oxygen.
"It is humbling to either drag a cart or worry that the oxygen is not going to be available when you need it," she said, but pulmonary rehabilitation changed her life.
Today she has 50 percent lung function, does two-and-a-half miles on the treadmill every day and needs no oxygen. Her husband of 53 years wanted other lung patients to have the same benefits and knowledge, so he surprised her on her birthday by opening their first rehab center in Maryland in her name.
"It's the best gift I ever had and it's all Ted's doing," Grace Anne said.
"Many, many family doctors still don't (know about the benefits of rehab), don't give people the proper testing for it, don't send them to see pulmonologists, do not prescribe pulmonary rehabilitation and it's a national outrage quite frankly," said Ted Koppel, who is a senior CBS Sunday Morning contributor and former Nightline anchor.
Today they cut the ribbon and opened their seventh rehab center nationally, this time at Tulane Medical Center, for heart and lung patients. An eighth center will open later this year.
"The outcomes are the same: An improved quality of life, can do more, less symptomatic and less anxiety and depression associated with a debilitating disease," said Dr. Joseph Lasky, Section Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine.
COPD can be caused by smoking or second hand smoke, even in your childhood, environmental pollution and even secondary to allergies and asthma.
Not all insurance covers rehab, even though it's proven by scientific research. Advocates are currently fighting to change that through national policy.