Country Star Patty Loveless Talks COPD Awareness
On November 16, World COPD Day, Grammy-award winning country music singer, Patty Loveless, was in Washington DC to perform at the Library of Congress as well as to advocate for COPD awareness, a cause that is close to her heart.
HealthCentral had the opportunity to sit down with Patty to talk about her experience with losing her sister to emphysema, and her effort to raise COPD awareness through the Drive4COPD campaign. Patty first learned about COPD when her sister, Dottie, was diagnosed with emphysema at the age of 47. She described Dottie as being full of life and energy prior to her diagnosis, winning dance competitions, singing, and possessing an unwavering drive.
“She just had so much energy and so much drive, and was full of spunk,” Patty said. “She was the one who inspired me to sing and do what I do.”
When Dottie became ill, Patty said, “She started going downhill really fast. I watched my sister struggle to go from her bedroom into the kitchen, and it was not very far, just to get a cup of coffee in the morning and she would have to hold onto the walls.”
Within a year, Dottie’s disease had progressed rapidly. “Slowly but surely, she lost the energy to do anything,” Patty said. Dottie died at age 48.
Dottie was a smoker, which is a known cause of COPD, but Patty says there was a lack of awareness of COPD at the time.
“I think if we had known ahead, like with this kind of campaign, we would have had a knowledge about this disease, and she would have been able to seek treatment, and we would have had her with us a lot longer.”
Just as in life Dottie inspired Patty to sing, her losing Dottie to COPD inspired Patty to become an advocate for COPD awareness. Patty has been a leader in the Drive4COPD campaign to raise awareness through a 5 question screener on Drive4COPD.com, as well as spreading the word through her music, performances and social media platforms. Her song “Drive” was created specifically for the campaign.
“I have encouraged people to get screened by using my name, through my song ‘Drive,’ and direct performances to talk about it … just using any vehicle that I need to get the word out,” Patty said.
The campaign, which launched in February 2010, focuses on working to help people recognize the signs and symptoms of COPD, to get people to take action to see if they may be at risk and to talk to their physician. Founding sponsor Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceutical Inc. joined forces with a number of organizations, including the American Association for Respiratory Care, COPD Alliance, Country Music Association and NASCAR, among others. Aside from Patty, celebrity spokespeople include Billy Ray Cyrus and Danica Patrick.
Since becoming an advocate, Patty says she has learned quite a bit about COPD and herself. She says it’s important as we age not to downplay shortness of breath or not being able to do things we used to do. It could be something more than a cold or a cough, she says, and figuring out if there is a bigger problem is key. She says just taking the screener is an important step.
“I learned that doing the screener taught me a lot about myself, and that I’m not at risk,” she says. “These 5 questions can answer a whole lot for people, and all you have to do is get yourself to the doctor and discuss it with your physician.”
Though there is no cure for COPD, Patty says the future for COPD patients is bright. With the possibility of stem cell treatment and other advances, she says “medicine is a blessing.”
In the meantime, Patty says spreading the word and sharing our stories about COPD can help others feel comfortable talking about health problems that might otherwise go untreated.
“I think people are reluctant to talk about their own health issue,” she says. “Maybe we can help each other to speak about it.”