Patrick Ewalt says if he can influence even one person more positively to protect their lungs and health, he will have done his job.
“I want to be a positive reinforcement for my grandkids and maybe even their kids. You have to really take care of yourself – eat right and exercise,” Ewalt says. “I just want to positively influence somebody.”
Diagnosed with COPD five years ago, Ewalt says he was a three-pack-a-day smoker for around 30 years.
“I went to a pulmonary doctor up the street because I was real short of breath and couldn’t figure out why. So I made an appointment and he checked me out. He has me come back a week later, where I did the treadmill and when he got the results in he told me I had 50 percent lung capacity left, 65 percent if I used inhalers everyday,” Ewalt recalls. “He got this strange look on his face and said, ‘You have emphysema.’”
Ewalt says his doctor put him on different medications, which helped his lung function considerable.
“The scary part is when you quit breathing, though. For some reason, I guess, my diaphragm and lungs just stopped,” Ewalt says. “I have a thing about breathing. I’m paranoid about not being able to. I am really easygoing, but if someone lights up a cigarette near me, I get really angry really fast.”
Being told he only had 50 percent lung capacity left was daunting, so Ewalt took it upon himself to begin educating himself.
“I thought, ‘What is COPD?’ and I found out basically that I had prematurely aged my lungs. And I thought, ‘Good, now I have the lungs of an 80-year old,” Ewalt says. “I exercise on a regular basis, and I do a lot of walking on our three acres, but it can be a struggle, you have to keep pushing yourself.”
“If you sit on a sofa and watch TV all day, your body loses tone. But if you remain active or active as you possible can – use a stationary bicycle, leg lifts, jumping jacks or just walking – that’s going to help you. So I remain active, even if I’m short of breath,” he says.
Ewalt compares his COPD to “breathing through a straw all the time.”
“Back when I started smoking in the 70s, they didn’t say anything on the package. People didn’t talk about lung cancer when I was growing up and I didn’t know anybody who had it,” he says.
Educating the younger generation to quit smoking is what Ewalt says is the most important.
“I don’t want anybody to have to go through this. Young people need to listen to someone going through it – see them, know them – they need to realize that life is too precious,” he says. “I have three grandkids with another on the way this month, and I’d like to be around to attend their weddings, and maybe see great-grandkids. It motivates me to do everything I can for them – the love keeps me going.”
“I hope somebody reads this and gets inspired. I hope I can influence someone for the positive,” Ewalt says.