New asthma technology helps man run BolderBOULDER

5:27 PM, Jun 22, 2013   |    comments
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BOULDER - Imagine if breathing normally wasn't second nature, that to breathe each and every day took a concentrated effort.

There are 25 million Americans who suffer from asthma. Two million of those have severe asthma, like 53-year-old Clair Hull.

Hull has had asthma since he was 19 years old.

"Over the last few years, every year got more limiting. Every year my lung capacity dropped by 10 percent. Every day in the last 6 months I probably should have been in the emergency room," Hull said.

For years, Hull has spent $500 a month on asthma meds and a steroid call prednisone, which also caused him to gain weight.

"We had tried everything. There wasn't anything else [doctors] could do," Hull said.

"Asthma's increasing worldwide, more people are getting it, more people are dying from it and we don't know why," Dr. Thomas Wilcox, Hull's pulmonologist, said.

After researching, Hull learned about a new asthma technology called Bronchial Thermoplasty that was approved by the FDA. Hull found only a few doctors in Colorado can do the procedure. Wilcox was one of them.

"The smooth airway around the muscle clamps down and through localized heat we are able to break down that smooth muscle so that it can't clamp down and allows patients who have severe asthma like Clair breathe better on a day to day basis. [Clair's] asthma was as bad as it comes," Wilcox said.

There are three outpatient procedures, it's painless and very low risk.

Hull qualified for the procedures and went from 35 percent lung capacity to now more than 85 percent and in just a few months.

"It's like you get a new set of lungs," Hull said.

And although he hadn't been able to run in years, Hull decided to set a big goal: run the Bolder Boulder.

His wife, their six children and four grandchildren all came out to support him. Three of his kids even ran it with him.

"It was a pretty emotional time, coming to that stadium with my wife and kids. It was a emotional because first you're at an event you never thought you'd be at and you're running in it and you're with your family and they've stuck with you through all this," Hull said.

"I thought that was incredibly optimistic and the fact that he was able to run it and have a pretty good time too- I think is terrific," Wilcox said.

Hull is exercising daily, off almost all of his meds and has lost more than 20 pounds.

Clair says he feels like he has a new lease on life and that Dr. Wilcox made what he thought was impossible, possible.

"He saved my life. I'm doing things I never thought I'd every do again," Hull said.

And now he's looking forward to different types of exercise in the future.

"I got a new father's day gift. I got a bike. That's something they would have never given me before. Running is good but I think I'll enjoy a bike much better," Hull said.

The procedure is only approved for those 18 and older and who suffer from severe asthma.

Currently, it's not covered by all insurance companies and costs $15,000 to $18,000 for all three procedures if paid out of pocket.

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(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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