Patrick Woltemath thought he was close to death from COPD. Little Emma Duran could not play like other kids due to asthma and eczema. See how respiratory and allergy experts at National Jewish Health asked questions no one else did and found answers that gave them hope for a better future. 



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Breathing is essential for life, like water is for fish. It’s this constant ebb and flow. Oxygen, it’s so unique to life on this planet. Our lungs our breathing is what brought us out of the primordial mud. It’s profoundly intertwined with the quality of our lives. Even with our ability to sit and talk with another person. It keeps your heart pumping, your intestines digesting, your brain thinking. It is truly fundamental and that’s why Breathing Science is Life.


Patrick Woltemath

I grew up in Sedgwick Colorado, I went back to Sedgwick in the late 90s to help take care of my mother and then I ran for mayor, was elected, that’s when I got sick. I got a cold and within a couple of weeks I could not quit coughing and then it seemed to just get worse and I couldn’t do anything.

When Patrick first came to National Jewish, he carried the diagnosis of bad COPD, severe COPD, and he is young and he lost a brother to the disease and was understandably very worried about his survival.

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It involves damage throughout the entire lung, but ultimately leads to death in many of its victims.

Patrick was really kind of a conundrum because he appeared to be deteriorating so fast in terms of his oxygen requirements.

I thought I was going to exist for a while and die like my brother did. I was terrified.


Emma Duran

Emma has had asthma since she was about 3. She would cough and cough and cough all night long to the point that she’d vomit, we just couldn’t get it under control. She’d sit there and shake and she’d still cough. Like why am I giving her this medicine that’s not doing anything?

She had a history of having a very wet congested cough that wasn’t responding to the asthma treatments. All the prednisone that she had required had really stunted her growth and had caused a lot of other steroid side effects.

I feel like I did that to her, I gave her the steroids. She would ask a lot of questions and kind of serious questions you know, “Mom am I always going to be like this?” “Am I always going to feel this bad?” I didn’t know that we’d figure it out, but I had to tell her that we would. And I would go to the end of the earth to figure it out.

National Jewish gets the cases that nobody else understands, that’s why we get them, and so therefore the idea is well we have to dig deeper.

They’re asking me questions nobody asked me before. National Jewish has approached it from a multidisciplinary tactic, it’s kind of happening without me even knowing it. I have total faith in what’s going on here probably more so than I’ve ever had.


Patrick Woltemath

The first time when I met Dr. Schwartz, that’s when I was very impressed. I just, I felt like, I felt like he gave me hope.

I put my all into trying to figure out what they have if that means you know going the extra mile then I’m going for it. Since National Jewish is a research and clinical facility, you know that you’re getting the most thorough and sophisticated imaging, blood work and physiological testing.

They did find out that I had a hole in my heart.

We also found that he had significant reflux disease and had a remnant of tissue that was a source for chronic infection. Finally, we were able to give him oxygen with the trance tracheal catheter.

When they hooked me up to the oxygen, everything got bright and that’s when I realized how dark things had become for me because I was not getting enough oxygen.

The hope for the future for people like Patrick is going to be research. Here at National Jewish we’re leading one of the largest studies in the world to identify the causes of COPD and look for a cure. 

It was a great combination of at least three different subspecialties, put their heads together, figure out what was going on, have a very motivated patient and have him turn around so remarkably. 

You wouldn’t really know he has lung disease when he walks in the room and it just thrills me when I get to see him in clinic with how well he’s doing. 

It’s easy to take breathing for granted until you can’t. I’m alive, how can I not be happy. I’ve kicked butt.


Emma Duran

I knew the second I walked into National Jewish that there was hope. And I knew that because they take the label off. She wasn’t a kid with asthma any more, she was a kid with a respiratory issue and we needed to figure out what it was.

They did endocrinology testing, they did acid reflux testing, I mean they went from A to Z.

At National Jewish, we rely on these scientific tests in order to help people breathe better.

National Jewish Health is one of a kind. We get to really intensively teach the family how to take care of their child’s disease and I don’t know that any other place in the country can do that.

After coming here for two weeks it completely changed this family’s life. 

We speak in her life of prior to National Jewish and post National Jewish because she is 1000% different and that’s why I’m thankful for what they did for us.


20,000 times a day we breathe in and out. We don’t even think about this automatic response until something goes wrong and you have to fight for every breathe. That’s why we dig deeper.

For us at National Jewish Health, Breathing Science is Life.


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