Tabetha and R.D. Moore are the quintessential team. R.D. was diagnosed with COPD in 2001, after suffering through childhood asthma and allergies his entire life.
Despite diagnosis, R.D. still wakes up at 4 a.m. every day for work at a concrete company.
“The whole reason why I became so passionate about learning about this disease was because of the first pulmonologist that saw R.D. when he was intubated (when a tube is placed in an airway to help an individual breathe) in 2001,” Tabetha says. “The whole thing happened kind of fast, and we didn’t know he had COPD then.”
Tabetha says when R.D., 47, was taken to ICU from the ER, she asked his pulmonologist what his condition was.
“She said, ‘He has respiratory failure.’ I asked what that meant. ‘He isn’t breathing,’ she says. Then I said, ‘But he is breathing. I don’t get it,’” Tabetha says. “It was frustrating and frightening that a doctor would not give a wife information about what is going on.”
After that, Tabetha and R.D., who live in New Braunfels, Texas, decided that if they were going to know anything about COPD, they were going to have to educate themselves.
R.D. says he was a smoker since he was 13 years old, smoking up to 1 ½ packs a day, at times. When he was diagnosed, he was working at a concrete company, batching concrete and loading trucks, in Wimberley, Texas in the middle of pastures.
“Being surrounded by pastures was bad for my allergies. I got an Albueterol inhaler from the VA hospital, but every day it became increasingly harder to breathe,” he says. “All the doctors told me my job contributed to it, but [before] I was an insurance salesman for 14 years. Being around this [concrete] stuff came way later.”
R.D. began work at this concrete company in 2000 as a batchman but now works as a dispatcher.
The day in 2001 when R.D. was hospitalized and subsequently diagnosed with COPD, he told Tabetha he couldn’t breathe.
“I told her, ‘I feel like I’m dying.’ I had dark circles under my eyes, it was really bad. So I went to a medical clinic, and they gave me breathing treatments, a pulse oximeter and said, ‘Ok, well this isn’t working,’” he says. “They had an ambulance take me to the hospital, and 18 days later I woke up in ICU.”
R. D. says he went back to work a week after his hospitalization. At the time, he had been working 70 hours a week, and now still works 55-hour work weeks. He now has wear oxygen 24/7.
Tabetha, 35, says COPD can be a complicated disease when it comes to treatments and all the “what-ifs?” and that she continues to learn about her husband’s disease.
“You need to know about your body and your disease (or have a caregiver like me that knows) in case you are hospitalized. There have been several times I feel he would have been intubated right then and there had I not been there to give them what we see as basic every day information,” she says.
Although R.D. says his diagnosis wasn’t a surprise, he still struggles with the occasional cigarette.
“I knew I had breathing issues, and (my diagnosis) solidified what I knew was wrong. I knew changes had to be made,” He says. “Once I was diagnosed there were more positive than negative changes; I became more self aware about the things wrong with me.
“Of course if I didn’t smoke, I wouldn’t be like I am today,” he says. “I have learned through the years and hospitalizations that you have to be your own advocate, too. If you see something isn’t right, speak up.”
R.D. says he wouldn’t be able to do it without his wife, Tabetha.
“She’s my helping hand,” he says.
“I would love to go back to school for respiratory therapy. I of course want to help R.D. as much as I can, but how wonderful would it be to be able to help others with what I have learned from real-life experience?” she says.