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Education and support key for pulmonary fibrosis patients

In January 2011, Pat Shannon noticed he had been feeling out of breath lately, but chalked it up to being “overweight and out of shape.” At his annual physical, his doctor noticed a crackling sound in his lungs. To determine the cause, Shannon underwent a chest X-ray. His primary care physician then referred him to a specialist at Piedmont Physicians Georgia Lung.

Shannon’s diagnosis

In March 2012, Shannon and his wife met with pulmonologist Amy Hajari Case, M.D. After a series of medical tests, Dr. Hajari Case diagnosed Shannon with pulmonary fibrosis. “I said, ‘Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty,’” he remembers. “She was very honest: They don’t know what causes it and there is no cure for it.” Dr. Hajari Case told him the average life expectancy for patients diagnosed with the disease is two to five years. “I’ve got almost two years of it made and I feel good – as good or better than I did when they first diagnosed me,” he says.

Support for pulmonary fibrosis patients

“It has been a rather heartbreaking, emotional thing,” says Shannon. “I feel almost like a man standing in front of the judge who gets a death sentence for something he hasn’t done. I’ll be honest with you - it’s hurt.” Shannon went through a rehabilitation program to help manage his symptoms. He continues to exercise twice a week for 30 minutes to an hour, which helps him feel better. He also attends pulmonary fibrosis support group meetings, at the recommendation of Dr. Hajari Case. “It’s very informative,” he says. “We’re able to sit there and talk with each other because we know what the other is going through.”

Living with pulmonary fibrosis

“A number of years ago, my doctor said, ‘Pat, you know your body better than we do. But when you study what’s going on in your body, you better understand why your body is acting the way it is,’” he says. Shannon says every day is different: Some days he feels “on top of the world,” while others he feels “like dirt.” “You learn that this is the way this disease acts in you,” he says. “The more you understand about this disease, the better able you are to deal with it.” Shannon says he strives to live better and fuller than he did before his diagnosis. “I’m grasping every moment that I can,” he says. “I’m happier than I think I’ve ever been.

I’ve just learned to live every day. When I wake up in the morning, I thank the good Lord that I’ve got that much left.”

 

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