Choosing care for early lung disease makes a difference

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Sometimes, seemingly ordinary medical problems turn into long-term conditions.

That's when you don't need just one doctor, but a whole team to see you through.

Kevin Dougherty of Jenkintown, Pa., is thankful his team was ready to navigate him through a life or death ordeal.

"I was short of breath. I had a terrible cough," Dougherty recalls.

For almost two months, he had no idea what was wrong with his lungs.

He had an earlier bout with pneumonia, but this was different.

At the urging of Dougherty's wife, his doctor referred him to Dr. Gerard Criner at the Temple Lung Center, where he got a diagnosis: pulmonary fibrosis.

That's a progressive disease in which lungs become damaged or scarred.

Dougherty was immediately put into the clinical trial of a new medication.

"That staved off my pulmonary fibrosis for almost three and a half years," he says.

He only needed oxygen on airplane trips.

"Get to 30,000 feet and my breathing got rough," he notes.

However, by 2018, everyday breathing was also hard, and his oxygen use had ballooned.

"I would go down the shore to visit my friend and bring 13 e-tanks in the back of my car," he recalls.

Thoracic surgeon Dr. Cherie Erkmen says the hospital takes a team approach, with a variety of experts, following the entire health of patients like Dougherty.

"There may be a lot of other issues or other morbidities, or health problems, that we need to address," says Dr. Erkmen.

"It's critical to have all of these disciplines working together to get people the best treatment," she adds.

Eventually, Kevin went on the transplant list. And to his surprise, he didn't have to wait too long.

The call came one Saturday morning.

"I'm like, yeah, this is Kevin Dougherty and like this is Temple Lung, we have two uncompromised lungs for you. You want them?" he recalls.

After the seven-hour transplant, he rebounded quickly.

"I was walking the whole floor like non-stop, the first couple days afterward," Dougherty says, proudly.

And he credits aggressive rehab for getting out of the hospital in two weeks and feeling so good today.

Dougherty says he was glad to be with that one team at Temple, from early in his disease right through the transplant.
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