A Sioux Falls woman who was misdiagnosed for years with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia no longer takes breathing for granted. She finally got the right diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease at Avera Pulmonary Associates and is breathing a little easier.
For the last 7 years Merri Engebretson could barely breath, but she didn't know why.
She says, "I have been sick for so long. I just couldn't get out of bed. I just kept getting sicker and sicker and losing bigger chunks of my life. I'm a single mother of 3 and a new grandmother of a 10 week old. I couldn't be that single working mom that brought home the bacon and fried it up in pan."
She and her dad have spent a lot of time in the office of Avera Pulmonologist Dr. Nicolas Dagher in the last year, but she is thankful for that. It wasn't until she saw him that she was finally diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD and put on oxygen.
Dr. Nicolas Dagher says, "Imagine your lungs are a huge mansion full of rooms and hallways. Emphysema are where the rooms are blown up. With COPD the hallways that lead to the room are blown up. That's how I explain it to my patients."
The leading cause of COPD is smoking which usually leads to the most common forms of the disease which are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Merri has emphysema and grew up in a house of full of smoke. She started smoking around the age of 10. Now 45 she is desperate for a lung transplant. She pleads with you to break the habit.
Merri says, "I have been a smoker all my life. I didn't realize the difference in smells. I didn't realize we stunk so bad. I didn't know what I was doing to my kids through second hand smoke. I would hear the doctor say quit smoking. And I would be yeah right. Of course you are going to say that you are a doctor. But I'm not going to be that person. I'm not going to be that 1 in 100 who is going. Quit smoking or you end up like me."
Merri quit smoking a year ago and doctors tell her it if she hadn't she probably wouldn't be here today. She knows if she'd never started her life would be a whole lot different.
The next step for Merri, she goes to the University of Minnesota at the end of April for a lung transplant evaluation. The higher the number she comes in (the worse off she is) the higher on the list she'll be. It could take up to two years, but she is hopeful if will be sooner. We hope that too.