Saving lungs and saving lives

Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 10:11 AM EDT
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(06/10/2020) -- Imagine your lungs slowly hardening and shutting down. It’s difficult to breath or even walk. That’s what more than 200,000 people will begin to experience this year. It’s call interstitial lung disease. There’s been very little to help patients, until now. A new drug is helping people breathe easier and live longer.

Bob Rawlins’ happiness is contagious.

He spreads hope volunteering at the local hospital every week.

Rawlins shared with Ivanhoe, “When I walk into a patient's room and they see a guy coming in on oxygen and they have oxygen, right away, there's a connection, right?”

Bob didn’t always need oxygen. Four years ago, the room started spinning, he had trouble walking, then...

“My kidneys were starting to fail,” Rawlins explained.

His family was preparing for the worst.

“My wife got down on her knees and grabbed my hand and she said she started to pray and then the two aides, the two nurses, and the two doctors that were there turned around and said, ‘We'd like to pray with you.’ So, that was one of those amazing things. So, it was pretty cool,” Rawlins recalled.

Bob was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease.

Kristen Highland, MD, the Director of the Rheumatic Lung Disease Program in the pulmonary department of the Respiratory Institute at Cleveland Clinic elaborated for Ivanhoe, “His lung disease is chronic, and he has very fibrotic changes on his chest.”

Cleveland Clinic pulmonologist Kristen Highland tried a new FDA approved drug, nintedanib to stop the progression. A recent study found there was a 57% reduction in the rate of lung function decline.

Bob takes pills twice a day, along with weekly pulmonary therapy. It keeps him doing what he loves best.

“My nurses always nickname me ‘walkie talkie’, because I could walk, and obviously I talked too much,” Rawlins shared.

As far as side effects, most patients report they experience increased reflux and diarrhea.

This drug is also the first FDA approved therapy for scleroderma-associated interstitial lung disease.

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