National Jewish Health Tour Leads to Life-Changing Care

Bob Feinberg first learned about National Jewish Health in 1999 from his friends Howard Mock and Sherman McCorkle, who were involved with the Spirit of Achievement Award Dinner, an event that benefits the Denver-based hospital. Sherman, who was being honored at the event, and Mock, who was committee chair, shared with Bob why they supported National Jewish Health. Bob was impressed and became a standing committee member for the annual dinner. Though it wasn’t until he had the opportunity to tour the institution that he would find out what it truly means to be a patient at National Jewish Health.

As treasurer of the Spirit of Achievement Award Dinner committee, Bob was invited, along with Sherman and Howard, on a tour of National Jewish Health led by pulmonologist Robert J. Mason, MD. Bob recalls walking the halls amazed with the treatments, the tests and the people of all ages being helped by the medical staff.
Hearing about all the respiratory ailments treated at National Jewish Health, Bob told Dr. Mason that in his “younger, wilder days,” he was a baccarat dealer in Las Vegas, smoked cigarettes, ran 10 miles a day in 100 degree heat and still had energy to play racquetball.

“Now I don’t do any of the bad stuff, but I can’t run a half mile,” he said.
Dr. Mason looked him straight in the eyes and told him he had asthma. Bob protested, saying he had not wheezed once in his life. Dr. Mason told Bob to trust him and come back in a couple weeks for an appointment. Three and a half days of testing showed a little asthma and a little emphysema. Dr. Mason prescribed several inhalers for Bob; they allowed him to breathe easily and continue exercising for nearly 15 years.  During that period of time, Barry Make, MD, took over as Bob’s National Jewish Health physician.

A year ago Bob’s breathing began going downhill again and he developed a cough. His energy dropped so drastically, he felt he needed to step down from the Spirit of Achievement Award Dinner committee. His local doctor, whom he trusts very much, changed his inhalers and added prednisone. Bob’s breathing and cough still didn’t improve, so Dr. Make suggested he come back to National Jewish Health for an examination, and ended up placing Bob on oxygen 24 hours a day.

“I am a very proud man, so it was devastating to be put on the tank,” Bob said. “He told me it might be for just a couple months if I was in the two percent of emphysema patients that could qualify for lung volume reduction surgery.”

Bob qualified. This past December, John D. Mitchell, MD, a surgeon in the National Jewish Health Thoracic Surgery Clinic and chief of general thoracic surgery at the University of Colorado, preformed lung volume reduction surgery, removing the worst of the emphysema and the top 25 percent of Bob’s lungs.

“I’m like a new man. My last business trip before the surgery I had to humble myself and ask my partner to push me in a wheelchair. Now he can’t keep up with me,” Bob said proudly.

Bob now lifts weights and works out daily on a treadmill, elliptical and stationary road bike. He has also been able to reduce his medication. He has a checkup with Drs. Make and Mitchell in July, and then returns to the very capable hands of his doctors in New Mexico.

“I love my doctors in New Mexico, but I can’t stop talking about my experience in Denver,” Bob said. “Dr. Mitchell was just a miracle, and my time at National Jewish Health consistently has been nothing but pleasurable. You know the care is there, because you feel the care.”

Now that Bob has experienced firsthand the National Jewish Health difference, he thought it was time to rejoin the Spirit of Achievement Award Dinner committee and talk about what the institution has done for him.

“I’m good to go until who knows when,” Bob said. “I’ve had emphysema for 15 years and haven’t felt this good for 20.”



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