Fighting for air: Nodari Cherekashvili

Nodari Cherekashvili in his garden
WHO/Pieter Desloovere

Nodari Cherekashvili - a 49-year-old security guard who works and lives in Misikcieli, Georgia - started smoking as a teenager. He often puffed 20 cigarettes or more a day. Two years ago, his heavy cough worsened and he found himself gasping for air while walking or running fast.

Nodari being examined by his physician
Ivane Chkhaidze/Georgian Respiratory Association

Nodari was diagnosed with COPD during the roll-out of a pilot health project on chronic respiratory diseases by the Global Alliance against Chronic Respiratory Diseases (GARD). The alliance - a WHO partner in the fight to improve global respiratory health - aims to bolster disease surveillance and prevent and control lung conditions in target countries.

Nodari taking a diagnostic test
Ivane Chkhaidze/Georgian Respiratory Association

A spirometry test confirmed Nodari's diagnosis by measuring how deeply he breathed and how fast air moved in and out of his lungs.

"I had never heard of COPD. I didn't know what was causing my cough and why it was hard to walk or run," says Nodari. Due to low awareness of lung conditions, many COPD patients in Georgia do not know what causes the disease. Now, thanks to better care, Nodari realizes that smoking caused the illness.

Though millions die from COPD each year worldwide, most health information on COPD prevalence and death rates come only from high income countries, and still the data is difficult and expensive to collect. Thanks to the Georgia effort, more knowledge on the burden of disease in a less wealthy country is emerging.

Nodari and a family member in his rose garden
WHO/Pieter Desloovere

Along with treatment, Nodari cut his smoking habit down to two cigarettes a day. He is fortunate to be able to pay for care. If he follows the advice of his doctors, quits smoking and continues to be active, his treatments could cost less as his physical state improves.

"A rich man can buy everything except his health…and nothing is more important," says Nodari. Now, with access to quality care, Nodari can easily walk to town to see friends and work in his rose garden.