“IT’S NOT TOO LATE” to get help for COPD

November marks COPD Awareness month and the theme for this year is “It’s Not Too Late”

For the month of November, I will be providing information to you about this very serious disease.

Before I get started let me inform you why I’m so passionate about what I do.  My name is Felicia Howard.  I am the COPD Educator/Respiratory Therapist at CMC’s Pulmonary Center.  When my grandmother was diagnosed with emphysema in 2001, my family knew nothing about it.  Then when they told us it was COPD we had no clue what that even meant.  We did not know anything about the disease, how to help a loved one deal with it, or to cope with it ourselves.  The doctors prescribed breathing treatments and oxygen and that was it.  My grandmother never smoked a day in her life but grew up on a farm and was exposed to 2nd hand smoke.  I remember plenty of days and nights being around her when she was short of breath (SOB), unable to perform day to day activities, and barely able to speak without giving out of breath.  Where we lived, the closest hospital was about 40 minutes away and it would take the ambulance about 20 minutes to even get to us, so on several occasions I found myself rushing her to the ER when “it got bad”.  If you’ve ever been in this situation you know how I felt.

So in 2003, I enrolled in the respiratory therapy program at then Macon State College (now Middle Ga State College) and vowed to help people who struggled daily with something we often take for granted, breathing.  I was excited to show my grandmother a new breathing technique called pursed-lip breathing that could possibly help her when she was SOB.  I promised her I would learn everything I could about this disease and spread the word so other families like ours would not have to go through what we did.  Unfortunately, in 2004 she passed away.  Another year would go by and I could officially begin my journey as a respiratory therapist.  Throughout the next 4 years I worked in the ICU and on the floors helping patients breathe easier.  Then…in 2009, the Coliseum Pulmonary Rehab Program was born.  I was one of a few therapist who jumped at this opportunity to venture into a “different” world of respiratory.  Later, the Pulmonary Center would come into existence to offer inpatient and outpatient services.  This journey has not been easy and we still have a long way to go but I am thankful and hopeful that we are finally on the right path. Finally, something is available that can help not only COPD patients but any patient with a pulmonary history can now receive guidance on how to manage their disease.


The Pulmonary Center continues to grow and advance the care being delivered to outpatients and inpatients.  In September of 2013, we received:

  • Joint Commission certification for COPD (inpatient program)
  • Joint Commission recertification for Advanced COPD (outpatient Pulmonary Rehab program)

Our Pulmonary Center consists of

  • Medical Director ( Larry Grant)
  • Manager Cardiopulmonary/Pulmonary Rehab (Candice Ussery)
  • 3 Respiratory Therapists (Felicia Howard–lead therapist for in-pt program, Tabitha Welsh–lead therapist for out-pt program, and Bobbi Cunningham–staff therapist) and
  • 1 Exercise Physiologist (Jarin Boone).

We strive to provide our COPD patients with a standard of care that is consistent with the GOLD guidelines and Joint Commission standards.  We encourage you to call us, so we can assist your patients in managing their disease.

For Inpatient needs:

  • Call 464-1653
  • Send a request for service to the Pulmonary Center

For Pulmonary Rehab:

  • Call: 751-0449

Now that you have a little background information, let’s move right along. J


COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is an umbrella term used to describe 2 progressive lung diseases, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  It is a common lung disease that blocks the airways, making breathing difficult.  The leading cause of COPD is smoking, however exposure to fumes or very dusty places and genetics can also cause it.

Symptoms include breathlessness, chronic coughing, bringing up phlegm or mucus, and wheezing.  Many people mistake their increased breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of aging.  If you are over 40 and have these symptoms, go see your doctor and ask about COPD!

A simple breathing test called spirometry can help diagnose COPD.  The test is quick, painless, and can often be performed in your doctor’s office.

COPD can be treated!  Although there is no cure, doctors can help you feel better and slow damage to your lungs.  The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the chances to prevent further lung damage.  However, treatments are available to help people at all stages of disease feel better and live a more active life.  It’s not too late to get help for COPD!

COPD can be prevented!  If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is the best way to prevent COPD or stop its progression.  The average person makes 7 to 10 attempts before quitting for good, but you can beat the odds. You still have time to sign up for the November and December smoking cessation classes, they are held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7 am and 3 pm.  Please email Tabitha.welsh@hcahealthcare.com for further information or to sign up.  We look forward to helping you “Breathe Easy.”

Stay tuned for more information…


Felicia Howard, RRT-COPD Educator

Pulmonary Health Educator

350 Hospital Dr

Macon, Ga 31217

Phone:  478-464-1653

Alternate Phone: 478-751-0449

Fax:     478-464-1323

Email:   felicia.howard@hcahealthcare.com