A Second Wind With COPD

A Second Wind with COPD

Written by: Justin Ikpo (cehdcomm@tamu.edu)
Post date: April 11, 2017

It took two years hard work for Dan Roper to get his life back.

In 2015, following a number of years of unhealthy habits, Roper was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is an irreversible progressive lung disease that causes increased breathlessness. Over 16 million people have the disease in the U.S.

Under the ongoing guidance of faculty and staff members at the Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevity (CTRAL), Roper, 71, was able to reclaim the way of life he thought he lost.

When Roper was diagnosed, it was the first time that the Georgia-native and former athlete feared for his life due to his health.

“I was devastated,” Roper said. “I was morbidly obese and my health was in a total tailspin to the point where I couldn’t even get up out of the chair.”

Scared, in decline, and convinced that he was out of options, Roper decided to reach out to CTRAL. He found out about the program three weeks after his diagnosis after reading an ad in the paper about a COPD study. He thought that by reaching out to them, he could at least learn more information about the disease, while participating in a CTRAL research study.  

A Glimmer of Hope

Upon arrival, Roper was introduced to the CTRAL staff and was given more information about the study. Despite his low spirit, he said he was greeted by optimistic staff members who were eager to help and provide encouragement.

“They immediately told me that there were things that I could do to improve [my health],” he said. “That was my first glimmer of hope and I knew that I had come to the right place.”

The first study consisted of various tests including protein intake and blood drawing to observe how his body processed the protein that he ate.

“One of the systemic effects of COPD is muscle wasting and muscle dysfunction,” said CTRAL Co-Director Dr. Marielle Engelen. “We told Mr. Roper what the effects of COPD were on his body and why we collected certain data during our studies. We also informed him that the data collected would increase our knowledge about COPD.”

Roper enjoyed the atmosphere so much that he kept coming back. He soon became a regular whenever CTRAL would conduct COPD studies. To date, he has participated in many COPD-related studies that CTRAL has conducted.

“I‘ve never felt like a test subject here. It’s always felt more collegiate. They’ve made me feel like a colleague and always treat me like an equal which has made all the difference in the world for me coming back to participate,” he said.

Getting Back TO Normal

In addition to each study, Roper started to understand the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. Little by little, he began to exercise daily by getting work done around the house. His persistence and new life outlook helped him lose a total of 96 lbs. in two years. As a result, Roper said he no longer needs to take his blood pressure or heart medication that he once required.

“Thanks to participating in the CTRAL research program, my health has turned a hundred-fold,” he said. “Before, I couldn’t walk from the bedroom to the kitchen without having to sit down. Now I can go anywhere I please.”

Roper is now able to participate in his favorite hobby — woodworking. On any given day, he can be found working in his woodshop next to his house building an assortment of furniture and house fixtures.

“My shop is my sanctuary. I’ve always liked to build things and I couldn’t do it for a long time due to my weight. Basically now, I can do everything I used to be able to do but just a little slower.”

Currently, Roper and his partner Corey are remodeling their house. 

Each addition to the house was built by hand in Roper’s shop. He hopes to have it completed within a few years. Recently, he has focused on increasing his upper body strength by working more extensively with hand tools. He still diets and claims his motivation is as high as ever.

When he is not working in his shop, Roper sits by the phone waiting for the call about the next CTRAL study, he said jokingly.

“They’ve given me my life back,” he said. “First they encouraged me that I wasn’t going to die by not being able to breathe, and now they’ve assisted me in this life-changing event.”

More information on CTRAL can be found on the program website.