Patient Success Stories

The Little Cough That Grew: COPD Can Sneak Up on You

Mr Barton and his Holy Cross caregivers  

In November 2019, Louis Barton made the 12-hour flight from Fairbanks, Alaska to South Florida to care for his mother.  Shortly after his arrival, he developed a "little cough" and embarked on a new journey – one that still requires him to use an oxygen tank to breathe more than a year later.

After a previous bout of pneumonia in 2012, Barton knew he did not want his new cough to progress.  He sought and underwent nebulizer treatment at an outpatient center.  An EMT was called. The diagnosis: COPD exacerbation.  He was transported to the Holy Cross Emergency Department, admitted and hospitalized for four days.

Eager to resume his mother's care, Barton pushed for discharge against medical advice.  Two days later he was back in the hospital—this time for a weeklong stay.

That's when he met the "COPD folks" – Helen Visco, RRT and Frances Amortegui, RRT– in his hospital room.

"I didn't know much about COPD," said Barton, 74.  "They were extremely helpful in telling me about what COPD was and how bad it was."

Nearly 24 million people have COPD, which is a progressive lung disease that affects different aspects of one’s breathing. The disease makes it extremely difficult to breathe due to the damage in the lungs.  COPD slowly develops over time and includes conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and refractory asthma (non reversible).

Helen, the COPD Navigator/Educator, stepped in and packaged all Barton's  medications and compressor, coached him through what he needed to do and provided all-around support on multiple occasions – from documentation for the airlines requiring clearance for his oxygen compressor to conference calls with his Respiratory Therapist in Alaska to form completions for Medicare.

"To me, it was a nightmare," Barton said. "I tell you, I could not have done this without Helen and Frances.  There's been no problem getting a hold of Helen from Alaska. If I need prescriptions or to see a doctor, she will line me up with them. I am so thankful that when this happened I went to Holy Cross Hospital as opposed to another hospital. They’ve been extremely nice and saw me through this."

Breathing Easier for Her Big Birthday

Mary at her 90th Birthday celebration

"The COPD coordinators have been doing an incredible job for me," said Mary Gleason, who celebrated her 90th birthday with the COPD team. "I can’t thank Helen Visco and Frances enough for all of the arrangements they’ve made for me and my time at the COPD Center for Pulmonary Therapy.  Helen has been available to me at a moment’s notice for guidance, advice and assistance; words don’t do the job to express my gratitude. I’m so enamored with Holy Cross that there are times I can’t think about anything else.

Helen has been a miracle worker.  She helped set up all the pulmonary therapy and whenever I need guidance, transport or anything else I may need for my doctor’s Helen is always to me. I’ve developed a wonderful friendship with that woman – she does it all and I don’t know how she does it but she does!"

Antoinette's Story - A Cautionary Tale About Smoking  

Learn more about the COPD Program at Holy Cross Health and Holy Cross Health's partnership with the COPD Foundation.