Earlier this summer Wadie Williams, Jr., MS, RRT, got a call from the AARC Executive Office asking if he would be willing to help organize a DRIVE4COPD booth to be sponsored by the Association at the upcoming Texas VFW Convention in the Houston metro area.
The RT manager touched base with his director at Methodist Hospital, Ken Hargett, MHA, RRT-NPS, FAARC, and got the go-ahead, then the two of them began marshalling the forces throughout the Methodist system. They also solicited help from the RT program at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston.
“The AARC supplied the materials and we supplied the personnel to man the booth and conduct the screenings and scorings of the screening tool,” says Williams. The booth was part of a general information area where vets could come by to do everything from learn more about VA benefits to purchase handmade items related to their military service.
Williams says he and Hargett received an outstanding response from the folks they asked to participate. They particularly want to thank the Methodist Hospital respiratory care departments at the Sugarland, San Jacinto, and Willowbrook hospitals, along with Romar Reyes, MEd, RRT, clinical director for the UTMB program.
Ken Hargett (left) and Wadie Williams organized the effort and even had the opportunity to address the full group about COPD
“Romar is both a friend and former manager at Methodist,” says Williams. “His students have their clinical rotations at our medical center and I asked him if he would consider allowing them to participate in a community service project by helping us man the booth and conduct patient screenings. Without hesitation, he said yes.”
The VFW convention took place from June 30 to July 2, with the AARC’s DRIVE4COPD booth scheduled for the 30th. Several of the volunteers who turned out to host the booth shared stories from the day—
Darla Burns, RRT, CPFT, manager of neurocardiopulmonary at San Jacinto Methodist, said many of the people she visited with were either currently awaiting a pulmonary consult or had already had testing done, and most of them had already quit smoking. “I did have one individual who shared a story about his wife passing away at a very young age from COPD. He said that he had quit smoking with her to help her quit, but that she still continued smoking up to her death. He stated that seeing what his wife had gone through with COPD is what gave him the willpower to never smoke again.”
Darla Burns from The Methodist Hospital San Jacinto
Terri Salas, RRT, from Methodist Hospital in Sugarland, enjoyed the interaction with the vets and particularly recalls one man who stood out from the crowd. “He was a tall slender man who I watched from a distance walk towards our booth.” The man expressed concern over some breathing issues he was having, then showed Salas a picture of the love of his life—an adorable Chihuahua—who he was worried about leaving behind should anything happen to him. Salas explained the signs and symptoms of COPD and had the man fill out the five question DRIVE4COPD screener. “He scored seven, which put him in the high risk category. I advise him to see his physician as soon as possible and to express his concerns. He took his survey, a fact sheet on COPD, and thanked me repeatedly on his way out.”
Terri Salas and her colleagues Robert Schwartz and Robert Mathews from The Methodist Hospital Sugarland
Yaser Nabi, RRT, a student at UTMB, especially remembers one veteran who listened to his information on COPD but assured him that he was just fine and didn’t need any help regarding his health. “As I was walking away from him, his wife approached me and told me that she really wanted us to help her husband and talk to him about seeing a physician because he coughs a lot and has a hard time sleeping without waking up several times.” She attributed her husband’s reluctance to seek help to the fact that many aging vets have a hard time letting go of the “macho” personality that drove them in their younger years. But she promised Nabi that she’d get him back to the booth for screening, and the student soon saw him return. “She fulfilled her promise that she was going to bring her husband to our booth, and we took care of this 78-year-old veteran who scored an eight on the DRIVE4COPD questionnaire.”
Rishika Vaidya, RRT, also a UTMB student, says the DRIVE event was a real eye-opener about the need for COPD screening and education. One gentleman who had already taken the screener and scored a six, for example, lamented the lack of information available on COPD in his hometown of Killeen and asked if his town could be added to the list of places for screening. “My heart really went out to the people of Killeen who may need help and information about COPD.”
Rishika Vaidya from UTMB
Vuong C. Dinh, RRT, another UTMB student, met one vet who drove home the need to screen people for COPD while they still have time to minimize its effects as well. The man’s brother has lung cancer now and his mother passed away from the disease. He was a smoker himself for 15 years, but quit when he got his diagnosis. “When I talked to him, he was catching his breath word for word, speaking in broken sentences.” The man told Dinh he had made a great effort to get to the convention so he could attend the memorial service held there, and that he suspected this would be his last chance to attend.