Doctor Trains Athletes & Others To Treat Their Breathing Trouble

By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – If you get severe shortness of breath during a workout, the problem may be vocal cord dysfunction.

The throat constricts during high intensity exercise. Now, a doctor at National Jewish Health is teaching athletes and others a novel set of breathing techniques so they can treat themselves.

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Tania Hattig (credit: CBS)

With a camera inserted in her nose and down her throat, a special mask and helmet, Tania Hattig is ready to ride. She is all geared up in a room at National Jewish Health and pedaling a stationary bike with a purpose.

Hattig is hoping this exercise will help end the shortness of breath that has plagued her for 30 years.

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(credit: CBS)

“It’s like I’m breathing through a straw when I’m breathing in,” Hattig said.

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(credit: Tania Hattig)

The mother of two from Longmont enjoys sports with her family, but intense workouts led to terrifying attacks.

“I could do short bursts of exercise. But, anything that was prolonged… I would preplan the place I was going to crash in the gym,” she said.

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(credit: CBS)

Hattig has asthma, but this is different. Nothing has helped until now with the help of Dr. Tod Olin.

Olin is the pulmonologist at National Jewish Health is the brains behind correcting vocal cord dysfunction.

“Kind of sounds like (gasping sound) as patients are struggling with episodes,” said Olin.

With the camera inserted, Hattig can see the problem.

Olin has developed a novel set of breathing techniques to correct it.

“We can teach patients how to breathe so they can cure themselves,” he said.

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CBS4’s Kathy Walsh interviews Tania Hattig. (credit: CBS)

It is working for Hattig and that makes her emotional.

“You know, I can ski with my kids. I can do more and I don’t have to be afraid of trying,” Hattig said while choking back tears. After 30 years, shortness of breath will no longer hold her back.

Hattig credits Olin with improving her life, and she’s not alone. He treats patients from toddlers to Olympians.

LINK: National Jewish Health Exercise Tolerance Center

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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