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Longboat Key Friday, May 13, 2022 1 week ago

Longboat Key resident aims to raise COPD awareness

Deanna Rollyson was diagnosed with COPD and is starting an effort to help other women with the disease.
by: Nat Kaemmerer Staff Writer

Longboat Key resident and Mrs. Sarasota Deanna Rollyson was an asthma patient for years. She never thought much of it, just took her medication when she needed to and avoided certain sprays and perfumes that set her off. Meanwhile, at work, she was also deep in the respiratory health business as the owner and president of AeroCare, a company that supplies respiratory medical equipment. 

“I started this company years ago, not ever realizing that I would actually be a COPD patient,” Rollyson said. “I never thought about this progressing to COPD, but it has and now I live with this knowledge. Obviously, that sparks my capability and advocacy to do a little bit more about it.” 

Rollyson is starting a venture to help women like her try to forget their troubles for a day or two. She’s partnered with local businesses including Secur-All Insurance, Trojan Coating, Reed Medical Group, Adapt Health, Fugate’s, and Florida RPM Services to help raise funds for spa days for women with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who are on noninvasive ventilators. 

“I came up with the idea of doing something nice for these ladies to make a difference in somebody’s life,” Rollyson said. “These partners all agreed and thought it was a great cause and opportunity, and we have several patients identified. We have one that’s already scheduled.” 

She’ll find patients, discuss what services they would like and then align them with a spa. There are some considerations to make with COPD patients, including no candles or sprays to aggravate low-functioning lungs. Some services, such as a lymphatic massage, can help patients with chronic illness flush out impurities in their muscles and give them some ease in their day-to-day lives. Other services are just to help patients feel better for a while. 

“As a woman who suffers with COPD, it is overwhelming to get the diagnosis, but it becomes overwhelming when you get oxygen or you're asked to be on a ventilator eight hours in the daytime, and I just think it's something nice that women would like to be pampered with,” Rollyson said. “Whether it's their nails, their hair, something that makes them feel beautiful for a day and forget what they're living with. … I think this is a great way to bring about visibility, to focus on the conditions of COPD and how it affects women and how it can break down their self-esteem. I'm hoping that this is a bigger opportunity to, you know, bring about visibility more than just in Sarasota. My platform, I'm hoping will be strong enough to go to the national stage and, and hopefully more and more will become more aware.”

At the same time that she’s trying to help patients with COPD forget, Rollyson is working to bring more people's minds to the grave issue of COPD, which is the third leading cause of death worldwide. As a business owner in the respiratory industry for more than 30 years and someone who had worked with COPD patients long before she was ever diagnosed herself, Rollyson was shocked that there wasn’t more attention on the matter. 

“You see all the commercials on TV, and all the different medications out there and Trelegy (a COPD medication), and you see happy, smiling patients, and they're taking their inhalers,” Rollyson said. “That's not what it is. This morning, I have struggled to even breathe and to see my airways cleared from the buildup of mucus, which is not very flattering. … It's not easy, but of course, they have to make it look that way. But most of the commercials don't look like it's a bad disease.”

Even before her condition was diagnosed, Rollyson performed fundraising and advocacy for people with the disease in Tallahassee and closer to home in Tampa, such as the recent Climb for Air from the American Lung Association. This year, however, she decided she wanted to stay even closer to home and help women in her own community. She’s just thrilled the business community decided to turn out as well. 

“Since I'm familiar with so many patients, it felt like the right thing to do,” Rollyson said. “I'm contemplating looking into a 501 C3, because I didn't realize so many companies would actually have interest in it. … I'm hoping it will turn into something pretty significant in the future.”

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