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Matt B., PA

The first time a doctor told me I had diminished lung capacity was during a routine physical back in 1996. At the time, I honestly wasn’t too worried. I was smoking cigarettes then, and the doctor encouraged me to quit. That was the first time I heard the term “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.”

As anyone who has ever smoked knows, it's easier to say that you're going to quit than it is to actually quit. It took a long time, but by 2000, I had smoked my last cigarette.

While visiting the Grand Canyon in 2004, I had my first bout of COPD-related pneumonia, and it was awful. I had difficulty breathing and could barely walk. By the time I got to a health clinic, I had a fever and chills. I ended up being hospitalized for three or four days and scaring my wife half to death.

Since then, I've had two more bouts of pneumonia, and I've been diagnosed with emphysema. Extreme heat and humidity (which always seem linked to increased air pollution) can trigger lung problems for me, as can extreme cold temperatures. Let your elected officials know that you stand with the American Lung Association in its fight for clean, healthy air.

First published: August 9, 2012

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