- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2002

The bulletproof vests worn by police officers aren't the only kind of vests that can save lives.
More than 20,000 Americans with medical conditions such as emphysema, cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy are wearing an inflatable vest to keep their airway passages open, allowing them to breathe.
The device, manufactured by Advanced Respiratory in St. Paul, Minn., is simply called the Vest.
"The Vest is like an inflatable life jacket. The inflatable vest is connected by hoses to an air-pulse generator that inflates and deflates the vest as rapidly as 25 times per second, creating air flow within the lungs," said Stephen Smith, vice president of corporate affairs and general counsel for Advanced Respiratory, who was in Washington last week.
The process involved, called high-frequency chest wall oscillation, moves mucus toward the larger airways, where coughing or suctioning can clear it.
The Vest "creates so much air flow." It "simulates 25 mini-coughs per second," Mr. Smith said.
Someone reading this article might assume the Vest is brand new, but the U.S. Food and Drug Admnistration approved the Vest Airway Clearance System for marketing back in 1988.
"Over 3,000 physicians have prescribed it in more than 300 different diseases or conditions," Mr. Smith said, but he acknowledged the average American probably never has heard of it.
That situation is on the verge of changing, thanks to former Sen. Bob Dole, Kansas Republican and the 1996 Republican presidential nominee.
He's actively promoting the benefits of the Vest to people in high places in government and to the public at-large. And because he is a World War II veteran, Mr. Dole has worked to ensure the Vest is available for veterans who need it.
"I met a World War II vet with emphysema who could hardly get out of bed before he got the Vest," Mr. Dole said in an interview. "I'm not saying he's like a young Republican now that he's on it, but it's changed his whole life," allowing him to be up and about.
Mr. Dole said some emphysema patients, who previously were attached constantly to oxygen, have been able to cut their supplementary oxygen supply in half as a result of the Vest.
In early November, Mr. Dole introduced officials of Advanced Respiratory to Anthony J. Principi, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. They told the secretary all about the wonders of their product. "Now we're in the process of putting the Vest in all 163 VA hospitals," Mr. Smith said.
Advanced Respiratory supplies the vests to the hospitals free of charge. The company also offers all vets a 60-day trial to test a vest in their homes.
The Vest costs $15,000 paid through a lease that allows lifetime use of the product. Insurance generally covers some of the tab, Mr. Smith said. The company "assumes the burden of the insurance process on behalf of the patient" and takes other steps to ensure that the Vest system "does not become a financial hardship," Advanced Respiratory said in a statement.
Mr. Dole said a large proportion of older military veterans have lung problems that can be traced to cigarettes they were given as C-rations.
As for other patients who have benefited, Mr. Smith cited a woman with emphysema who was "so out of breath, she couldn't talk to her daughter on the telephone." But now that she's on the Vest this same woman "goes to church and sings in the choir," he said.
Three-fourths of the Americans now using the vest have cystic fibrosis.
Mr. Smith said the man who invented the vest was a doctor who treated cystic fibrosis patients. Today, he said, approximately half of the nation's 30,000 cystic fibrosis patients use vests. He said the device is a factor in the longer life expectancy of CF patients.

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