The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Leonard Nimoy and His Battle with COPD
Upon being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and shortly before his death on Feb. 27, 2015, actor Leonard Nimoy tweeted, “Not soon enough.” He was referring to his decision to quit smoking. Nimoy, made famous by playing Spock in Star Trek, had quit 30 years before, but the damage to his lungs had already been done. Nimoy told music artist Pharrell Williams last year in an interview, “I flunked chemistry in high school.” So, perhaps the elder movie star didn’t fully grasp the long-term harmful effects of smoking in his younger days. He spent the final year of his life urging people to benefit from his mistakes and stop smoking now, before it’s too late. The internationally beloved actor was 82 years old.
COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. Some 12 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with COPD, and about another 12 million go undiagnosed.
The symptoms of COPD differ from person to person. Sometimes symptoms progress quickly, sometimes they remain mild to moderate for years before progressing rapidly into the latter stages of the disease. Shortness of breath is the most common complaint of COPD sufferers, other symptoms include:
- Achy joints
- Weight loss
There is no known cure for COPD, but the disease can be treated. Many physicians prescribe bronchodilators to help expand airways and allow a greater volume of air into and out of the lungs. It’s common for a COPD treatment plan to include a regimen of breathing and aerobic exercise to rehabilitate some pulmonary function. For people with late-stage COPD, supplemental oxygen is prescribed. Although these treatments are helpful, they do not reverse symptoms. They are used to deter the progression of the disease.
COPD takes years to develop, and despite the decreasing incidence of smoking, the prevalence of COPD is rising. We’re seeing people who started smoking in the 1960s reporting to their doctors with degenerative lung diseases.
Nimoy, to his great credit, took precious time from his last days among us to issue a warning. Many of us smoke in our younger years before the eventual realization that we’re mortal, and that we need to take care of our health. The trouble with degenerative lung disease is that it’s impossible to know at what point enough damage has been done to the lungs that they will continue to degenerate, eventually resulting in a COPD diagnosis.
Funding for research on curing lung disease has perhaps been limited by a sort of stigma carried by smoking-related illnesses — that patients only have themselves to blame. People deserve the best treatment they can get. We have to keep in mind that many started smoking while they were minors, and it’s well know now that “Big Tobacco” targeted successful marketing campaigns to children for decades. Today, we can benefit from treatment options that were unavailable to past generations, such as the innovative practice of using adult, autologous stem cells to boost the human body’s natural ability to heal itself.
These cells are derived from the patient’s own body, and are found in bone marrow and in the patient’s venous blood. Stem cells derived from bone marrow or blood can form many types of differentiated cells. During the procedure, stem cells are extracted in the lab from the bone marrow and blood. Once extracted, they are isolated. The cells are then re-introduced to the patient intravenously. The treatment is a minimally-invasive outpatient procedure performed in a clinical setting under the supervision of a trained professional.
If you suffer from COPD symptoms and would like to find out whether stem cell therapy can improve your quality of life, contact one of our patient care coordinators today at (800) 729-3065 to schedule a free consultation.