Dorney said she was on the verge of giving up hope when she was diagnosed 13 years ago, but her doctor prescribed the therapy that has helped her improve.
"I changed, but I had the opportunity to change," she said. "I do believe life is breath, and if you breathe well, you will live long on earth."
COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the nation, trailing only heart disease and cancer. West Virginia has some of the highest rates in the country for COPD. In Southern West Virginia, the rate of hospitalization for COPD is twice the national rate. About 45 percent of people with the disease do not know they have it, according to experts.
"It's more important to West Virginia than any other states in the country," Sen. Rockefeller said. "We've got 64,000 people that have this, and 45 percent of those who may have it don't know. So what is the real figure, we can't be sure."
Not only will the project treat COPD patients, it also will treat black-lung patients, medical director Dr. Dan Doyle said.
Coal miners frequently suffer from COPD, Doyle said.
Statistics say 105,000 coal miners have died because of black lung but that number is likely higher, said Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers union.
"One of the things we all know is that if you spend any time in a coal mine, you're probably going to have some kind of breathing impairment," Roberts said.
Frank Gould, 64, of Chesapeake, suffers from black lung after spending 21 years as a coal miner. He was diagnosed in 1994.
"I can't do anything I used to do," Gould said. "I just sit around all the time. You can't eat like you need to eat.
"It's hard to explain, when you're used to being active all the time and now I've gotten to where I can't do nothing."
Gould, who already is a patient at Cabin Creek, is in the process of getting a doctor's approval to start pulmonary rehabilitation treatment at the clinic.
"I'm willing to try anything," Gould said. "I just want to try to get better to where I can breathe better and . . . Right now I just feel like I'm in prison."Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.