Patty Loveless dedicated her performance at the Library of Congress Wednesday night (Nov. 16) to her sister, Dottie, who was only 48 when she died of emphysema. Wednesday was National COPD Day (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder), and emphysema is a form of COPD.

Patty was part of the CMA Songwriters Series, which was making a return to the Library of Congress' Coolidge Auditorium for the popular free show that features Nashville tunesmiths talking about and performing their hits. Joining her were Clint Black, Tim Nichols and host Bob DiPiero.

One of the songs Patty performed, 'Drive,' was written expressly for the COPD campaign, to make people aware of the disease. The singer has worked tirelessly to help further the word about COPD over the past few years.

"The Library of Congress is a great place to do this songwriter series," Patty tells The Boot. "It houses some great works of art, and what better place to perform these songs that we write and sing."

Patty, whose long list of hits include 'How Can I Help You Say Goodbye,' 'Chains' and 'Blame It on Your Heart,' says she wishes there had been an organization around to help her family learn about COPD when her sister was stricken with the disease. At the time, they didn't understand what emphysema was or how Dottie could be helped.

"Dottie inspired me to sing and do what I do," Patty says. "She had dreams of doing this. I think of her and her energy and how much drive she used to have. She was full of spunk and pretty sassy too, but when this disease started to take over her body she was not able to continue. She didn't have the energy to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. She had to hold on to walls to get there. Before all that happened, she would win awards for dancing, and I'm sure she could have given them a hard run on 'Dancing With the Stars' if she were here today.

Patty urges people to go to the website and answer the five question screener to see if they might be at risk for COPD. "I didn't know what COPD was when I got involved in this, and a lot of people don't know," she cautions. "There may be 24 million Americans with COPD and not know it.

"In the past two years since this campaign was launched, we have screened two million people, and 20 percent of them were at risk for COPD. Catching this disease in its early stages is so important, because once you lose capacity in your lungs, you don't get it back. There is treatment out there, and if you find you are at risk, then you go to your personal physician and get help."

In addition to emphysema, chronic bronchitis is another form of COPD, which is the fourth leading killer in America, killing more people than breast cancer and diabetes combined.

"I have had people walk up to me and tell me about their experiences now that I am involved in this campaign," Patty says. "I remember in Atlanta, we were doing screenings there, and a mother walked up with her 10-year-old son, who had chronic bronchitis. I remember thinking how young he was, but COPD doesn't discriminate by age.

"I've also had a lot of people say it's so wonderful that I am a part of this and helping get word out, because one of their close relatives had died of the disease and they wished they had known more when they were going through the illness. People need to take control of their health and be aware of the signs of COPD. Sometimes you get older and you think you have shortness of breath going up and down stairs because of your age, when it might be something else. Others think it's just a smoker's disease, but it can affect others as well."

Patty took the last year off from recording and touring to stay with her husband and producer, Emory Gordy, Jr., who had knee replacement surgery. She reports he is now doing very well, and she's thinking of going back into the studio sometime next year to start a new project.

"I'm still in the process of deciding what I'm going to do as far as the music goes," she reports. "I will also continue to get the word out about COPD. Lungs are so important to those of us who are singers, and also to speakers and people who enjoy the simple activities of walking, hiking or running. I am going to always feel a part of the COPD family, and continue to push on about getting spreading the word about the disease."

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