Trekkies around the world are sending messages of support to actor Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s Spock, after he publicly revealed to fans via Twitter he’s been diagnosed with lung disease, specifically chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
I quit smoking 30 yrs ago. Not soon enough. I have COPD. Grandpa says, quit now!! LLAP
— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) Jan. 30, 2014
The 82-year-old TV actor’s announcement came just a day after he was spotted being pushed in a wheelchair with a breathing tube attached to his nose at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, USA Today reported. Nimoy looked frail and in a serious mood as he was being escorted by a helpful airport attendant. The actor was returning from a trip from St. Martin with his wife, Susan Bay.
Typically, people with COPD — a disease that gets worse over time — experience difficulty breathing due to the narrowing of their airways, or airflow obstruction. The lungs rely on the natural elasticity of the bronchial tubes, which divide into many smaller tubes that end in clusters of tiny air sacs. These tiny sacs contain tiny blood vessels that allow oxygen inhaled to enter the blood stream while carbon dioxide is exhaled. The potentially fatal lung disease causes the lungs to lose their elasticity and partially collapse, leaving some air trapped in the lungs as the person exhales, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Patients who are unable to keep a safe oxygen level using a nasal cannula or a loose-fitting oxygen mask, will be required to have a machine assist them with their breathing, like Nimoy. The actor uses a ventilator, specifically an endotracheal tube, to control his breathing. This tube is inserted into the nose or mouth and “breathes” for the patient by pushing air into their lungs, followed by a time for the lungs to be empty, says the American Thoracic Society.
Although COPD lung damage cannot be reversed, the elfin-eared, half-human, half-Vulcan Spock, urges his fans prevention is the best invention.
Smokers, please understand. If you quit after you're diagnosed with lung damage it's too late. Grandpa says learn my lesson. Quit now. LLAP.
— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) February 6, 2014
Tobacco smoking continues to be the main cause of COPD, as it accounts for as many as nine out of 10 COPD-related deaths in the U.S. Those who smoke during childhood and their teenage years are more susceptible to develop the lung disease in adulthood. Current or former smokers, such as Nimoy, are more likely to be diagnosed at age 40 and older.
Although the actor continues to battle with his lung affliction, as his symptoms have begun to worsen, limiting daily activities such as walking, Nimoy continues to be engaged with Trekkies. Despite retiring from Star Trek conventions in 2011, Spock has done numerous projects, including a cameo as the Vulcan in last year’s Star Trek film Into Darkness. He has also urged his fans on Twitter to tune into a forthcoming marathon of shows — Trek Fest — that are being shown on the network EPIX on Feb. 16.
Since there is no known cure to COPD, or a way to reverse its lung damage, it is not clear how long Spock will continue to “Live Long and Prosper.” As the third leading cause of the death in the U.S., some patients can live six months, while others live for years. However, a person’s age at the time of COPD diagnosis can contribute to their life expectancy rate. The 82-year-old actor faces a reduced life expectancy due to his age and also because he suffers from a moderate case of COPD. Nimoy may face lung failure, lung infections, lung cancer, and heart problems in the future.