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My Healthcare Team (Part 2)

As mentioned in Part 1, when talking with people about their journey with COPD, it’s important to remind each person that they are unique in their own disease.

COPD is one part of our lives. To fully manage COPD, we must also manage other aspects of our life to ensure well-rounded care.

Here is the rest of my healthcare team:

  • Pain Doctor (Orthopedics): This is a doctor that I see for overall pain management for my arthritis, degenerative discs and fibromyalgia. He is the doctor that oversees my pain medication and can give injections.
  • Pharmacist: This is a medical specialty that I use always!  They provide the medication that is ordered for me by my doctor.  If there is a question on medications or even on contraindications  with medications that I am on, these are the people I ask, if I haven’t thought to ask doctor prior.  Often I will ask the pharmacist, just to double check and answer any questions that I may have.
  • Phlebotomists: These people draw blood for testing and results. They do regular blood draws as well as arterial blood gas.  When I could donate blood, they were the people who would draw that pint.
  • Physical Therapists (periodically): They help to affect the different areas of the body, to be able to move, to get better movement, reach etc. They help posture.  They help too, with shoe inserts and things that work through the different parts of the body.  Because I have so many joints and other parts of the body that are causing a lot of pain and stiffness.  By working one area, it seems that it affects the next area of the body.  I need to find something that will affect all of the areas of the body that are affected by each exercise.  I also got my tens unit from them.  I don’t use very often because it’s causing more pain.
  • PA is a Physician’s Assistant: The PA that we have here, I really like.  She’s female which I like, because I think she hears me and understands me as many doctors don’t.  She can do many things that the doctors can do, such as ordering tests and writing prescriptions.
  • Pulmonologists treat the lungs and respiratory illnesses. This is a specialist that oversees my COPD and asthma health.  This doctor refers me to testing for spirometry, my six minute walk, x-rays, etc.  He/she helps diagnose changes in my lungs, additional tests and treatments.  He/she reviews and prescribes medications. My pulmonologist has also done bronchoscopies on me and has scraped my lungs.
  • Radiologists: They focus on imaging tests and scans. Some tests and x-rays require a dye to be injected, radiologists do that as well. I’ve had it done with CT Scans and even for a stress test where I lay down instead of running on the treadmill. Some of the following have their own specialties, but much of it falls under radiology.
  • Chest x-rays to see how the lungs look, whether they are clear or show pneumonia. The tech and doctor can also see COPD and cancer in the lungs. X-rays are also done to see the arthritis in my joints as well as to see how joints look after surgeries, to make sure things are healing correctly.
  • Echo: This shows the heart and how it’s functioning. I have this done regularly for pulmonary hypertension. I know others have this done for heart health/function.
  • CT Scan: This can be used in so many areas. A CT Scan was one test done to help diagnose my COPD.  I have this done periodically, to look at my sinus as well. I had CT scans to look at arthritic joints and to look at brain, to help diagnose why I get dizzy and fall.
  • MRI: I have had this done to look at cysts and other areas for diagnosis.
  • Ultrasound: Have had this done to check cysts, fibroid tumors and even when I was pregnant to check the baby while in utero. I have had this done on legs to see if there were blood clots, thankfully no.  They do ultrasounds to check and follow up on the lumps underneath my chin and in neck area.
  • Respiratory Technician: This is a person that does testing to diagnose COPD, asthma, etc. and also to does follow up tests to see if there is change in the lungs.  Because this will show lung function, it can also be used to help determine what stage of COPD a person is at.  This also is used to help to differentiate COPD and asthma.
  • Respiratory Therapists: They help with breathing.  These therapists are also in the operating room where they monitor breathing, intubate if needed or in some surgeries have decided to intubate before the procedure begins.  They have always given me a nebulizer treatment before I’m even taken to the OR, as well as go over medications.  We don’t have respiratory therapy where I live, but thankfully when I was diagnosed with COPD at National Jewish in Denver, I met with a Respiratory Therapist a couple of times on my weekly visit and they really helped teach me how to breathe, exercises to do, how to take medications correctly and even how to eat, slowly and smaller meals.
  • Rheumatologist: This doctor diagnosed my fibromyalgia was referred by GP. A different rheumatologist discussed the possibility of Sjogren’s Syndrome with me and was referred by ENT. They did a biopsy, which was suggestive of Sjogren’s, but for now, I’m just going to go ahead as I have been.  Rheumatologists also work with diabetics and those with some autoimmune diseases.
  • Sleep Doctor/Clinic: Sleep Apnea is something that happens to us when we stop breathing for short periods in our sleep.  Snoring is a sign of Apnea, however not all snorers have apnea.  Me, snore?  My husband is hearing things!  But I do!  I had overnight testing at a sleep clinic where I was diagnosed the first time.  At the Mayo, I had a doctor who took care of patients with sleep disorders. That is a blessing.

How about you? What specialists do you see to help you maintain a full range of care?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Janet Plank moderator author
    3 years ago

    Daniel, I’m so happy for you and that your appointment was better than you thought it could be. How wonderful that you like your pulmonologist and that he’s working for you.
    Sleep apnea, do the test. If you have that, a c-pap, tho a bit strange looking piece, it can give you sleep like you haven’t had for some time and do you have headaches in the morning? that would be improved too! I would hope you don’t have if, but if you do, c-pap can make a bit difference.
    Your doc is very thorough! Testing for Alpha-1 is phenominal. So many people don’t even know about Alpha-1. We need to do a lot of educating.
    The echo might sound intimidating, but it’s not. I have them every 6 months to 1 year as I have pulmonary hypertension.
    Sometimes when there are tests that docs want to run and we don’t, it can be what I call “rule outs”. There are so many parts to our bodies, so many things that can go wrong. The only thing they can do is test to find answers. If something is ok,that’s a big thank you. We can rule it out, knowing that isn’t an issue.
    I’m so grateful that your doctor is willing to work with you and to help you out. He sounds like a gem.
    Know that you aren’t alone and that there is support here and on the rest of thie site.
    I hope you have a restful night.

  • Janet Plank moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Daniel

    I’m so sorry that you have had difficulties with doctors and your treatments. Doctoring can be so very expensive. I’m not sure where you live. Here in the US, we can use coupons and sometimes get free samples of medications.
    If you can’t do rehab out of the house, find things to do at home. Walking can make such a difference. Since I don’t have a treadmill, I walk through my house to get exercise. Pedometers can really help to keep track of your steps. We also have a redundant exercise bike, this has a back on the seat and makes it easier to use. Exercises can sometimes slow the progression of your disease.
    Something that really helps with my appointments is that I write down the things that I need to discuss with the doctor, on that list I make comments. I give the list to the receptionist or nurse, so that the doctor can read the list before we get together, it basically helps to give the doc an idea of what’s going on with me and how best to utilize our time and what we need to focus on. That has made such a difference. I do know that I have to limit the things that will be discussed, because there is only so much time allotted for the appointment.
    I think it’s wonderful that you are able to get in to see a pulmonologist. He/she knows lungs and is better qualified to make recommendations to your meds, the condition of your lungs etc. You probably won’t have to see the pulmonologist very often. He/she will report to your PA what he/she has learned about your lungs and lung health. Your PA can then follow through on the Pulmonologists recommendations and treatment. This can be a good thing.
    I always like to talk about baby steps. Take a few small baby steps, then increase those as you can. This can even be used with your first appointment with your pulmonary specialist. You can give your list and just look at a few things that you feel you can do and want to do, then you can increase those baby steps and look at doing more to improve your health.
    Try to stay positive if you can. I hope that you and the pulmonologist are able to work together.
    I wish you well and hope you have a good appointment.
    Please, let us know how your appointment was. ~Janet

  • Daniel Nester
    3 years ago

    Janet You are right about staying positive after seeing my pulmonary specialist I have changed my opinion. He was very informative and even gave me a video he personally made to answer a lot of questions I had ! The appointment went well and he gave me another spirometer test to see if my breathing has improved with medication . He also changed the medication I was on because he felt that I would do better and it would cost less !He also set me up for a echocardiogram because of the swelling in my ankles and lower legs .He gave me another blood test to look for a Alpha1 antitrypsin deficiency and actually explained why ! He also wants me to have a walking test next visit to see how I do . He was also concerned about me having sleep apnea and wants a home test for that. The apnea test I thought was going a little over board but he explained that it could cause a problem with my heart if not looked at so I agreed . Guess he just wants to cover all the bases ? He also told me to find out before hand how much the Echocardiograph will cost me out of pocket having it done in the hospital because if it cost to much he has a office that has the equipment farther south from me and he could have me tested there if it is cheaper for me. So he realizes the costs of all these procedures and will go out of his way to make it affordable and easier for me . I guess I am blessed with a specialist that cares .Now I feel less nervous and more informed. Thanks also Janet for showing you care . Sometimes I just need a little boost and this site helps a lot !

  • Daniel Nester
    3 years ago

    I have to see a pulmonary specialist Tomorrow at the hospital . Although I am very nervous about it , I am willing to listen to advice . At the moment I don’t except him as part of my team. Frankly , I don’t understand why I am going although my P.A. sent me to him as a referral . I have too many questions and too many unknowns .I feel as if I am being herded and treated like a animal. I do however have my own lines I wont let them cross. I hope he doesn’t find me as being unruly . I just have some does and don’ts. I will not take off anymore work for appointments. I have used all my sick days for office visits ! I will not join a rehab program with a 40 dollar co-pay for 3 days a week for 8 weeks . That is 960 dollars I cant afford. I will not allow a optical device to be put in my lungs via my nose or mouth while I am awake, the thought makes me tremble !Least ways a biopsy awake either !Just isn’t going to happen . If that is being uncooperative so be it. If he agrees then he can be part of my team . If not, I will go for a entirely different team. Ones that inform me and address my concerns. I have to maintain my life and make a living and the other stuff would be like putting Mr. T on a airplane !

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