Faces of COPD: Orlan Holmes, 'We don’t always look ill but we struggle for every breath.'

Posted on November 28, 2017   |   

Because of everything he has been through, Orlan does a lot of advocacy work with the COPD Foundation. He is COPD State Captain for Indiana, co-chairs a support group, sets up around 25 health fairs a year and speaks at local universities about COPD. Read on to learn more.

Orlan Holmes Takes Action for COPD Awareness

Orlan was diagnosed with severe COPD and disabled when he was 52 years old. He was put on oxygen 24/7 with an average FEV 1 of 16 percent. “I went from working full time to being totally disabled in 13 days.” After many years of hard work, he received a double lung transplant.

Like many individuals with COPD, Orlan’s life changed with his diagnosis. “I learned I couldn’t do most of the things that I used to—it was an effort and a struggle to do anything. I had to rearrange my whole house so I could get things easier. I had to learn to do things more efficiently and slow down. I learned that if I took care of myself this wasn’t a death sentence but an opportunity for me to live and maintain quality of life for my final years.”

Told that pulmonary rehab would help, Orlan started “going to it. It made an amazing difference in my life. Not only did I become stronger but I also made new friends.”

Orlan Holmes Takes Action for COPD Awareness

He started going to COPD and Alpha-1 conferences and then talked a friend of his into forming a combined COPD/Alpha-1 support group. “This gave me a reason to fight the disease, by trying to help and educate others.”

Orlan sees himself as “a walking, talking miracle of modern medicine and human stubbornness. I had to change everything in my life because of this disease and figure out how to overcome it.”

There were many obstacles, many of which Orlan overcame on his own. “I had problems with drugs, procedures and falling through the cracks of our medical system. I learned to advocate for myself. I learned how to do fundraising, raising $10,000 by myself. I had to quit smoking to get the transplant. And every election year I worry about being able to get the drugs I need to survive.”

Orlan still does pulmonary rehab and works out at the gym as much as possible. “I firmly believe that I would not be alive today if it wasn’t for pulmonary rehab.”

Orlan’s message is this: “I want you to understand that this disease is horrible. We don’t always look ill but we struggle for every breath. We all can’t get oxygen or proper drugs and medical treatment. We are underfunded and under-researched. We need dollars, advocates and volunteers. We need them now, not tomorrow!”

In recognition of COPD Awareness Month, the COPD Foundation is featuring "Faces of COPD" profiles throughout November. The "A New Day, A New Face of COPD" blog series will highlight the stories of those who have been touched by COPD in any capacity. Tell your story by e-mailing us at info@copdfoundation.org or commenting below.


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  • Orlan, your a great asset to COPDF, thank you for being a great Captain and your knowledge about COPD helps us all out here and anywhere you advocate. 🖖