Joe Morrison has a unique COPD story that has come full circle. His father Chuck was diagnosed with it in 2006, prompting Morrison to become a fervent advocate. His advocacy efforts for the COPD Foundation brought him to our Annual Awards & Recognition Benefit this December in New York City, where he met Dr. Forrest M. Bird, inventor of the first practical mass-produced medical respirator and “Babybird” respirator—a pediatric respirator that saved the life of one of Morrison’s children, Brendan.
“I don’t know if there are words to describe how I felt. I am grateful beyond anything I can even say. The fact that I almost lost my son and he survived, and survived without have any kind of after-affects, there are no words to describe that,” Morrison says. “I would rate being able to thank Dr. Bird in person one of the top 10 things in my life. That’s big—I’m married and have four kids, so those are my top five right there. I can’t really accurately describe how great it felt to go to the person responsible for such an amazing device that has saved so many children, including my own.”
Brendan was born June 19th, 2005, and because of complications during birth, had to be rushed to another hospital and was put on the Babybird respirator.
“How well it functioned was reason enough to not have to put him on a bypass machine, and otherwise, he would have been kept in the hospital much longer with a much harder road for recovery,” Morrison says. “Today, Brendan has no affects from the lack of oxygen [at birth].”
“I’ve been very lucky to have been able to meet a lot of amazing people in my life, but to shake his [Dr. Bird’s] hand and look into his eyes, you can just tell he is someone with an enormous heart and incredible intellect. Within five seconds it’s apparent what kind of an amazing person he is.”
Morrison says he was led to the Foundation because of his dad’s diagnosis, as well as his mother-in-law who also lives with COPD. In addition to owning and running a landscaping business and starting a drag race apparel business, Morrison is also a part-time race-car driver—which he’s used as an opportunity to promote the COPD Foundation and COPD awareness in general.
“I think a lot of people have a lot of relatives with breathing-related problems because of smoking over the years. I decided that I had a tremendous opportunity with drag racing to reach a lot of people,” he says. “So I took that opportunity to do some good and make a difference. We wanted to provide a positive message and hopefully help some people.”
Morrison says it’s been overwhelming to find out how many people are living with COPD.
“I didn’t realize how many people in and around the drag racing business have it. It’s amazing to meet so many people dealing with this on their own, and it’s great for my Dad to be able to related his story to them and point them in the direction of the COPD Foundation and hopefully make improvements in their own quality of life.”
“To be able to do this with my Dad, it gives meaning to the challenges he’s dealing with,” Morrison says.
Morrison’s father was diagnosed with COPD in 2006, and retired in 2008.
“Being an advocate for COPD is just one of those things I know I should be doing. When you follow your heart in life, it leads you to the right place. And I’m so thankful that I’m able to be at the right place at the right time, and its’ really what makes this life journey so amazing,” he says. “I’m thankful I’m able to bring the message to as many people as I can, and as things progress, I hope to reach more and more people.”