In late March I had the privilege of participating in the first meeting of the International Respiratory Care Club. The inaugural meeting was held in Freiburg, Germany, a delightful small city with a university atmosphere in the Black Forest, between Frankfurt and Munich. The purpose was to exchange concepts and therapeutic approaches with physicians and other health care workers who deal with patients who have various lung diseases, where most or all of their care can be accomplished at home.
It was my great privilege to give the inaugural lecture which was entitled, ALungs At Home . I traced the history of home care for chronic lung diseases, beginning with tuberculosis, which was by far the most common challenge for physicians at the turn of the century. I next traced the development of mechanical ventilators, first used for polio, and how the Salk and Sabin vaccines were miraculous breakthrough which eliminated the need for mechanical ventilation, both in hospital and at home. Would that such a major breakthrough could occur in smoking cessation, the major cause of COPD. The development of portable oxygen equipment, beginning with the first transfillable liquid systems, which were pioneered by the Denver group, the development of oxygen concentrators and some newer delivery systems including demand delivery systems and transtracheal oxygen, was a major portion of the presentation. In all 17 countries were represented, ranging from Australia and Brazil to Ukraine and Yugoslavia.
It was quite appropriate, I believe, to cite the major contributions made by the medical equipment suppliers, such as Homedco, Lincare, and many others. But for the supplier we could not have the type of delivery systems that serve over one million people each year, including sleep apnea monitoring, care of the neonate at home following severe viral infections, and those Alittle bitsy babies surviving a very low birth rate because of modern technology but who still require home oxygen and, occasionally, some assistance with home mechanical ventilation.
The future appears bright. We can anticipate not only improved understandings of the factors associated with chronic lung diseases, but better drugs and technologies to deal with these problems. But, of course, the greatest challenge of all remains smoking cessation to avoid the growing problem of COPD and related disorders.
Have a Happy Mothers Day to one and all. I hope to be in touch with you next month.
Thomas Petty, MD