Lung Cancer Patient Photo

Breathing Easy After Fighting Lung Disease

Jim Germer of Gardner claims he's one of the luckiest guys around. And that's after spending months in and out of the hospital being treated for lung disease, including lung cancer.

It all started when he enrolled to receive Veterans Affairs benefits in 2013, at the urging of his wife, Jean. As part of the intake process, a chest x-ray showed a spot on Jim's lung. Follow-up tests confirmed he had lung cancer, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). At the time, his only symptom was feeling winded after climbing ladders at work. Jim continued to have regularly-scheduled imaging tests to monitor his lungs.

Months later paramedics rushed Jim to the OMC Emergency Care Center when he awoke one night struggling to breathe. His lung disease had caused one of his lungs to collapse. Dr. Dennis Lawlor, from Olathe Health Consultants in Pulmonary Medicine, performed an emergency procedure on Jim's lung, which was leaking air into his chest cavity, causing the lung to collapse.

"Jim's emphysema had damaged the structure of his lung, allowing air to leak out of the lung and forcing the lung to collapse," Dr. Lawlor said. "We implanted several small clip-like devices called endobronchial valves (IBV) into Jim's lung to control the leak. It's an extremely new technology-Jim was one of the early patients in the country to receive this kind of valve."

The surgery was successful, and Jim returned home. While he recovered, Radiation Oncologist Dr. Kelly Rhodes-Stark ran additional tests to assess Jim's lung cancer.

"The tumor was pretty small, and because it was caught early, it hadn't spread," Dr. Rhodes-Stark said. "It's misleading to think that there's nothing we can do when patients have poor lung function and are diagnosed with lung cancer-with early detection and advanced treatments, we are making great strides in successfully treating it."

Dr. Rhodes-Stark prescribed only three radiation treatments for Jim. Weeks later, he received amazing news-his cancer was gone. Unfortunately for Jim, the good news didn't last long; five days after he finished radiation treatment, his other lung collapsed. This time, Dr. James Miller, a Thoracic Surgeon at OMC, performed Jim's surgery, removing part of the diseased lung.

Since his last surgery in February of this year, Jim has been recovering well at home. Currently there is no evidence of cancer. He uses supplemental oxygen, but is feeling good and working hard to regain his strength with the help of OMC's pulmonary rehabilitation program. He hopes to begin volunteering as an OMC Ambassador soon, as a way to give back to the hospital he loves.

"Without Olathe Medical Center, I don't believe I would be here today. My doctors, nurses and all of the staff genuinely cared about me, on top of caring for me. I'm lucky because my wife encouraged me to get screened in the first place, and most fortunate to have the team at OMC fighting so hard for me. They've become a part of my family."

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