Community Corner – Meet Orlan
We met Orlan Holmes, who is based in Fort Wayne, IN, at the AARC Congress conference in Indianapolis, IN. There he explained just a portion of his story and we were intrigued. Lucky for us, he was excited and willing to share his story more extensively with us, as he speaks at several events about his story. We were fortunate that once we reconnected he made time to speak with us.
15 years ago, he was an assistant manager for a Dollar Tree, and one day became ill with pneumonia, and was sent to the hospital where he was diagnosed with COPD. A year later, he had a followup meeting with his doctor, the doctor seemed shocked to see him as if he didn't believe he would have lived that long. He only had about 16% lung compatibility and the doctor prescribed him to be on oxygen 24/7.
His Respiratory Therapist told him he had COPD, in 2012. When he was diagnosed he had no idea what COPD was so he took it upon himself to learn as much as he could and connect with a few support groups that would help him. He learned the most within this groups. He later found out that he was very high functioning with a lung capacity of only 16%, that people did not believe that his percentage was so low. He had proof from his doctors.
Dealing with disability and fighting medical decisions while his ex-wife was on life support became very stressful and he began to start smoking again. During that time of his life he lived in a house where he had 13 stairs to climb everyday, and one day he was afraid that he was never going to be able to climb those stairs because it continuously got harder to get up the stairs. That was an awakening for him and he stopped smoking. A year after he stopped, his pulmonologist asked him if he had considered a double lung transplant. About 98% of people at his lung function at that time are usually bedridden.
His doctor sent him to Indianapolis for testing, unfortunately they said they couldn't help him due to other conditions related to his heart. They recommended him to connect with the Cleveland Clinic, and they were willing to work with him. First, he had to gaurantee that he would be able to finance his living expenses in Cleveland as they wanted him nearby for post surgery treatment to make sure it was a success. That is when he reached out to the National Foundation of Transplant which was a great organization that helped him fundraise.
Once he was accepted at the Cleveland Clinic, he went through a year of testing to get on a transplant list, and then waited an additional 3 years on the transplant list until he got his lungs. His body was functioning very well until at 6 months this body took a turn for the worse and was sent to the hospital, his lungs were filling up with liquid. After months in and out of the hospital he was on the road to recovery.
He has done pulmonary therapy, which he recommends to everyone who suffers from COPD. His therapy was only covered for 12 weeks, it didn't matter if he had insurance or not. He went to therapy for a little over 5 years and had to pay the remaining weeks out of his own pocket. He started going 3 days a week .
During the time he was fighting COPD, he was also suffering with other medical conditions. Since he was forced into retirement and disability due to his health at the age of 52 he decided he wanted to giveback. He continues to work with the National Foundation of Transplant from time to time, for fundraising. He does talks with nurses, doctors, pharmacy students and respiratory therapists. Works with the COPD Foundation, Alpha 1 Foundation , American Lung Association and operating multiple support groups. He also does around 24 health fairs every year. He highly enjoys spreading awareness and resources. His favorite saying is breathing is no underrated.
Orlan has been off of oxygen for five years now, with a lung function of 93-98%.