Faces of COPD: Jimmy Slover

Posted on March 07, 2018   |   

Jimmy Slover is one of the newest members of the COPD Foundation's State Advocacy Program. He has shared his experience and insights into living with COPD. Follow his story below.

On February 25, 2010 I my life turned upside down and it would never be the same again.

It was 3:00 in the morning I wanted a cigarette. I can still remember lighting it up and trying to smoke it as I coughed my head off. At that particular moment I did not care about the coughing nor the fact that I couldn’t breathe worth a darn – I just wanted that cigarette. Because I wasn’t able to be strong and tell my brain NO, the following took place and changed my life forever.

I lived in an apartment complex at my brother’s house which had a unit upstairs and two single bedroom units downstairs. Thank god I lived in one of the bottom units. I can remember smoking that last cigarette and coughing and coughing and then it happened: I began hyperventilating. I remember calling my neighbor and screaming for him to come down and help me. I then dialed 911 and that was the last thing I remembered.

The following day, I contacted my family and told them they had better come say their “goodbyes” because I didn’t I was going to make it another day. Coincidentally, the day before this major event in my life happened: I saw my first pulmonologist. He looked me straight in the face and told me that it was going to take something drastic for me to quit smoking. I still can’t get over the fact this lung doctor just knew I was headed for disaster after just one office visit.

The morning after my episode, my family came to the hospital thinking they were about to say their goodbyes a surprise visitor joined them – my pulmonologist! He asked to have a meeting with my family at which time he told my parents he could save my life if they would let him (you have to understand that I requested not to be put on a ventilator) so my parents went against my wishes that morning (thank goodness).

I woke up 2-1/2 weeks later from an induced coma. I could not move a bone in my body, I knew I was on a ventilator, but had no idea that I had received a tracheostomy. From that point on my life was anything but normal. I spent the next three months lying in a bed being fed by a tube, being kept alive by a machine. It was the longest three months of my life and I think some of the hardest.

Having to learn basic tasks all over again was so very hard and it made me realized just how much I had taken things for granted in my life. Do you have any idea what it is like to try and communicate with your mother who is 3 feet away, but you can’t because your trach and can’t talk? I will never forget the empty feeling that day and the tears that rolled down my face because I could not communicate.

My health team finally got me up and moving day-by-day and they sent in occupation and vocational therapists daily to work on my mobility and motor skills. I’ll never forget the day they put my speaking valve in me and I got to talk. I thought I had gone to heaven that day. On the fourth month they moved me to a rehabilitation hospital where I learned how to walk all over again. That was the longest and hardest 30 days of my life also. I worked six days a week on building my strength and toning my muscles up so I could leave there.

In 2011 I decided I needed to be close to UC Davis Medical Center, because it was a teaching hospital. As it turns out that was the best decision I made by far. In 2011 I got lucky and became a member of the UC Davis Road Program. Through the “reversible obstructive airway disease (road) program,” hospitalized COPD patients receive individualized treatment planning, one-on-one education, specialty-care referrals, pulmonary rehabilitation and day-time pager access to a registered respiratory care practitioner.

Because of the level of care, the professional treatment, and the warmth of every person involved with the program, it has been a much easier road for me to travel down. The respiratory team empowered me with a wealth of knowledge and understanding of my illness. Accompanied by my belief in Jesus Crist our lord and savior I am able to wake up every day now and live my life to the fullest. I am now no longer scared of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease because I know what to do when an exacerbation comes on. Sure I wake up every day scared of not knowing the unknown – we don’t get to pick our breathing days. However, with education and a strong belief in myself I am able to battle anything I face.

So here I am today helping the many who suffer and don’t understand COPD. I am so very blessed to have a really great lung doctor and even better respiratory team one phone/text call away. I am a support group administrator and a very strong advocate for this awful disease of ours. I am blessed to be able to give back to all who want to better themselves and live a long good life with COPD. I will never stop advocating for COPD as long as I have one breath inside of me. So what changed for me in the last 8 years you ask?

I had to sit down after being diagnosed with stage 4 emphysema right from the start and just cry. Once I had cried myself all out, I was ready to deal with what was in front me. I had to accept the fact that things were going to be much slower and much different moving forward. I became downright mad at myself and decided to learn as much as I could and live my life to the fullest. Now I no longer try to make excuses or cut corners thinking I still can still beat the odds. I have a daily routine that I live by day in and day out.

My case manager(s) have taught me what to do and what not to do. Now live up to that and I am able to enjoy most days good or bad. I have learned the key the real key to our illness is: open and thorough two-way communication with one’s doctor. Remember this if nothing else. Doctors cannot help us if they do not listen to our concerns or fully understand our experience.

My recipe for living a good life with COPD is a simple one: Communication with your medical team, followed up by education of your illness. Maintenance and patience are important daily, followed up with pacing yourself to go the whole day.

Today I am celebrating my 8th year cigarette free! Never thought I would be saying that to anyone 8 years ago. I hope my story has touched you in some small way and has served as a reminder that many of us in the community care. Remember to take one breath at a time, one minute at a time, and enjoy the moment you’re living in.


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