Moves in Medicine: Lung disease and the loss of control

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Having a severe lung disease can be debilitating and that loss of control can wreak havoc on your mental health.

62-year-old Michael Parsley enjoys his daily walks with his dog. He says he appreciates every day and every breath, because life used to be much more difficult.

"It got to the point where even going up a flight of steps was a struggle. I ended up being on oxygen 24 hours a day," he said.

Michael was suffering from a rare form of lung disease brought on from years of rheumatoid arthritis.

"Over time, over a period of eight, nine years, my pulmonary function started really spiraling out of control," he said.

He says not being able to breathe properly and being tied to oxygen was crippling.

"You develop a lot of anxiety, everything you faced you knew you were gonna get out of breath going upstairs, just walking with a normal person - you couldn't keep up," Michael said.

It's a feeling Temple Health clinical psychologist Nancy Ciccolella says is common.

"Think about if you can't breathe, that's terrifying," she said.

She says the first thing to do to regain control is get educated about your illness.

"Knowledge is power and you can't deal with something if you don't know what it is. So learning all of those things is the very first step in dealing with it," Ciccolella said.

She also suggests planning out your day.

"You have to know how far somewhere is, is there a place to sit down, you have your oxygen, all that," she said.

And when you do get short of breath, stay calm.

"I'm going to sit down, do my pursed lip breathing - in through the nose out through the mouth - and I'm going to count to 100 and then I'm going to feel better," said Ciccolella.

Michael eventually needed a lung transplant, but says 17 years later, he feels great.

"Today I was outside, cleaned up leaves, taking the dog for a walk, able to enjoy all the things that other people my age can do," he said.

Doctors also suggest looking into pulmonary rehab for training on keeping your anxiety levels down, and joining a support group.
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