St. Francis staff focusing on lung health at Health and Fitness Expo

Randy Barnhart thought his asthma issues were because of a smoking habit.
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Franciscan St. Francis Health is joining with us to make your health a priority at the WTHR Health and Fitness Expo this weekend.

The smoking rates in Indiana are among the highest in the nation. Correspondingly, there is a large patient population here dealing with asthma, COPD and lung cancer. St. Francis will have representatives at the Expo with resources to help detect and treat these lung illnesses.

It's help Randy Barnhart says he wishes he would have sought years ago. He can't get over how much better he can breathe after using a nebulizer.

"Before I did that, it was like King Kong had ahold of my chest and after taking the treatment, it's not as bad," he said.

The 42-year-old also has an emergency inhaler, just in case.

"It's the scariest feeling in the world, not being able to breathe," Barnhart said.

Barnhart was diagnosed with asthma after he stopped a 27-year pack-and-a-half-a-day smoking habit.

"Growing up, I never had an issue with asthma. I started smoking young, so when I started having problems breathing, I just assumed that it was from smoking," Barnhart said.

It was his son Austin, who at age 12, encouraged Barnhart to seek help.

"As bad as I wanted to quit, it took him continually asking me when I was going to quit for me to decide to quit," he said. "He was my big motivation during the process. He kept track of the days for me, I had a little calendar with smiley faces for each day that I went smoke-free and he would mark every day that I went smoke-free."

St. Francis pulmonologist Dr. Faisal Khan says there is multidisciplinary support for patients like Barnhart and screenings like the pulmonary function test, which can help measure issues with breathing that patients may have grown to gradually accept.

"Someone who might be having breathing problems and does not realize they may have asthma, which is a really common thing, a breathing test might unmask that and may find they have asthma and talk to their physician about their numbers," Khan said.

Barnhart says he's glad he finally sought help and now can really appreciate the value of taking a deep breath.

"It really takes control of your life. The best thing to do is get in, try to get some help and take control of it," he said.

In addition to offering the pulmonary function test, Franciscan staff at the Expo can help you identify if you are a good candidate for a lung scan and you may also enroll in the Aspire smoking cessation program.