By Alison Trinidad

“(My husband’s pulmonologist) said (I had) the worst case of emphysema he’d seen,” says Cathleen Bartleson, San Pedro, Calif., resident and pack-a-day smoker for 35 years.

The doctor’s regimen of steroids and breathing exercises did little to ease her coughing and shortness of breath. She was told that she was at a point where she just had to learn to live with it.

Cathleen knew she needed to find another doctor, a bigger hospital. So she scoured the Web, researching potential treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) like emphysema. When Cathleen learned of Keck Medicine of USC cardiothoracic surgeon, Paul M. McFadden, MD, she thought he had a caring face and made an appointment for a consultation.

“I was searching for something,” Cathleen recalls. “I just felt so alone.”

After listening to Cathleen’s story, Dr. McFadden introduced her to pulmonologist Kamyar Afshar, DO, who is director of the USC Center for Advanced Lung Disease. After some tests, Dr. Afshar tweaked Cathleen’s medications and exercise schedule.

“The first time I met Dr. Afshar, I absolutely fell in love with him,” Cathleen says. “He was so there for me from the beginning. … I was admitted to Keck Hospital of USC in May for some heart problems while Dr. Afshar was out of town. But he had his fellows constantly checking in on me. I would see three or four pulmonologists a day. It was absolutely astounding — I felt so special. He knew exactly what was going on with me even though he was out of town.”

Cathleen knows there is no cure for COPD, but the care and compassion at USC helps her breathe easier. She is now back at work as a substitute teacher and exploring participation in a clinical trial.

“Before I started going to USC and seeing Dr. Afshar, I was hopeless — now, I have hope.”

To schedule an appointment or for additional information about the USC Center for Advanced Lung Disease, call (323) 442-5100 or email pulmonary@med.usc.edu.