You have Emphysema

Abe in Sendai, Japan in 1954When I was posing for this photo in 1954, a cigarette is stuck in my hand. The Army gave me free packs of cigarettes in each pack of C-rations. Everything the Army did revolved around smoking. From policing butts in basic training to taking smoke breaks - smoking was tolerated and encouraged.

Forty-two years later I began to cough a lot and noticed that it was very hard to breathe on cold mornings when I walked my dog. This seemed to happen in 1999 and continued.

I had the same problems on hot and humid days. After two years of this, I asked for help and my doctor sent me for a “Lung Function” test.

The numbers were poor and some “shadows” were on the lungs. I went through a Cat Scan to define the shadows.

The verdict - my lungs are damaged from years of smoking. There is a lot of scar tissue and ‘blebs’ or thin spots on both lungs (blebs can break at any time resulting in a collapsed lung). I told the doctor that I already had a ‘spontaneous pneumo thorax’ (collapsed lung). They thought I would have had a lot more than one. 

That’s bad news. Fixing a collapsed lung in not a fun-stay in the local hospital. Cutting through the ribs to stick a long plastic tube into the chest cavity is really a horrible wide-awake experience. They got to do that to pump out the air so your lung can re-inflate itself. Not pleasant at all. Did you ever try to sleep in a hospital with a pump sucking air out of your chest? You don’t want to either.

I am still able to walk the dog on days when it isn’t cold or humid. I can still ride my bike 9 or 10 miles a day when the humidity is low and I do that as often as I can. I had quit smoking on March 10, 1996. I was operated on for an aortic aneurysm the next day. I haven’t smoked since.

All of these problems could have been avoided or at least made less likely had I never smoked in the first place.

So here I set with a long piece of Dacron tubing in my aorta (that looks like a miniature dryer vent) and a big square piece of Dacron mesh (that looks like a screen door patch) covering my belly below the navel.

Honestly, the odds are that if you smoked for any time at all, you already have some of the same problems that I have.

Modern technology has no cure for our Emphysema, but the dryer vent tube and screen door patch are a direct result of modern technology and I'm alive. But my lungs are a mess. Verdict: I have Emphysema.