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A COPD Story Comes Full Circle

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Joe Morrison has a unique COPD story that has come full circle. His father Chuck was diagnosed with COPD in 2006, prompting Morrison to become an advocate for greater awareness around the disease. His advocacy efforts for the COPD Foundation brought him to our Annual Awards & Recognition Benefit in December 2011 in New York City, where he met Dr. Forrest M. Bird, inventor of the first practical mass-produced medical respirator and “Babybird” respirator—a pediatric respirator that saved the life of one of Morrison’s children, Brendan.

“I don’t know if there are words to describe how I felt. I am grateful beyond anything I can even say. The fact that I almost lost my son and he survived, and survived without have any kind of after-affects, there are no words to describe that,” Morrison says. “I would rate being able to thank Dr. Bird in person one of the top 10 things in my life. That’s big—I’m married and have four kids, so those are my top five right there. I can’t really accurately describe how great it felt to go to the person responsible for such an amazing device that has saved so many children, including my own.”

Brendan was born June 19th, 2005, and because of complications during birth, had to be rushed to another hospital and was put on the Babybird respirator.

“How well it functioned was reason enough to not have to put him on a bypass machine, and otherwise, he would have been kept in the hospital much longer with a much harder road for recovery,” Morrison says. “Today, Brendan has no affects from the lack of oxygen [at birth].”

Morrison Family “I’ve been very lucky to have been able to meet a lot of amazing people in my life, but to shake his [Dr. Bird’s] hand and look into his eyes, you can just tell he is someone with an enormous heart and incredible intellect. Within five seconds it was apparent what kind of an amazing person he is.”

Morrison says he was led to the Foundation because of his dad’s diagnosis, as well as his mother-in-law who also lives with COPD. In addition to owning and running a landscaping business and starting a drag race apparel business, Morrison is also a part-time race-car driver—which he’s used as an opportunity to promote the COPD Foundation and COPD awareness in general.

“I think a lot of people have a lot of relatives with breathing-related problems because of smoking over the years. I decided that I had a tremendous opportunity with drag racing to reach a lot of people,” he says. “So I took that opportunity to do some good and make a difference. We wanted to provide a positive message and hopefully help some people.”

Coming Full Circle Morrison says it has been overwhelming to find out how many people are living with COPD.

“I didn’t realize how many people in and around the drag racing business have it. It’s amazing to meet so many people dealing with this on their own, and it is great for my Dad to be able to related his story to them and point them in the direction of the COPD Foundation and hopefully make improvements in their own quality of life.”

“To be able to do this with my Dad, it gives meaning to the challenges he’s dealing with,” Morrison says.

Morrison’s father was diagnosed with COPD in 2006, and retired in 2008.

“Being an advocate for COPD is just one of those things I know I should be doing. When you follow your heart in life, it leads you to the right place. And I’m so thankful that I’m able to be at the right place at the right time, and it is really what makes this life journey so amazing,” he says. “I’m thankful I’m able to bring the message to as many people as I can, and as things progress, I hope to reach more and more people.”

The COPD community is deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Forrest Bird, PhD, an American inventor whose medical respirators saved millions of lives. We are grateful for Dr. Bird’s extraordinary innovations in providing oxygen to millions with respiratory illnesses.

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  • What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing. I hope your father and mother in law are still fighting the fight. Thank you for your support. I actually didn't know anything about COPD until I got it. Even then the Dr's didn't give me much info. I have had to learn along the way. I was told half was allergies and the other half was COPD, here take these medications. As time went on I realized the heat and humidity in Florida was killing me as I was out of work 3 months out of the year and unable to breathe. I left Florida and now in NE, which is much better for my breathing. I think it's the clean, crisp air. I am in the severe stage and I pray I stay in this stage for a long, long time.
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