PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- COPD is one of the nation's biggest health problems - up to 24 million Americans may suffer from it.
Temple Health is involved in trials for an innovative treatment to cut COPD attacks.
Mark Humphreys has always made his living with his hands - most recently in construction, but many years ago, he ran an auto shop in Florida.
"My lungs were burnt by sulfuric acid fumes," says Humphreys.
He couldn't go back into his shop.
"Even the aroma made me lose my breath," he says.
Despite a month-long hospital stay, and multiple treatments, Humphreys never completely recovered.
He was left with COPD - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Even with inhalers and multiple nebulizer treatments daily, simple breathing was a challenge.
"COPD was causing me to feel like somebody was just standing on my chest all the time," he told Action News.
After 14 years building his business in Florida, Humphreys had to move back to his native Philadelphia, in part to get treatment at the Temple Lung Center.
Now back in Philadelphia, he was happy to become the first patient to get an experimental treatment with Dr. Gerard Criner.
The AIRFLOW-3 trial is aimed at seeing whether deadening overactive nerves in the airways can cut flare-ups.
During the procedure, the doctor puts a special catheter through a broncho-scope into the lungs.
After a balloon is inflated, an electrode inside it interrupts the nerve signals.
"It was about a 40-45 minute procedure. We did both lungs at the same time," says Dr. Criner, adding, "He went home the same day."
"I went back to work the next morning," Humphreys said with a laugh.
Now, he's keeping up with the younger guys at work.
Dr. Criner says results from European trials are impressive.
"They had about a 50% decline in the rate of flare-ups with patients that were treated with this therapy," he says.
Humphreys was treated in early June, and is still going strong.
About 400 patients in all will be taken into the AIRFLOW-3 trial, in the U-S and Europe
Temple AIRFLOW-3 trial offers new approach to treating COPD