A Breath Away

Broadway Woman Fights For Her Health

Posted: April 24, 2013

(Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Pulmonary rehab patient Dawna Dove has her blood pressure checked by Khristi Detwiler, registered respiratory therapist at Rockingham Memorial Hospital. Dove is being treated for COPD. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Dawna Dove, a patient at Rockingham Memorial Hospital, walks a track during a therapy session. At 39, the Broadway resident says she still has a lot of life in her. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)

Born with limited vision, and diagnosed with diabetes at age 3, Broadway local Dawna Dove has never had the advantage of a healthy body.

“I was always a sick kid,” she recalls, adding that she frequently developed severe cases of bronchitis and pneumonia. “But I conquered that and I lived my life.”

Due to her own health struggles, Dove was empathetic toward the suffering of others, and decided to pursue a career as a medical responder.

After becoming licensed as a first responder and Emergency Medical Technician, she joined the New Market Rescue Squad as a paid employee in 1991.

While her vision impairments required her to learn some techniques through memorization, she happily put in the extra effort.

“Not to brag, but I was so proud,” she says. “It was awesome, that I was good enough with a disability for them to hire me.”

Though certain tasks, such as driving, were off-limits to Dove, she still remembers feeling “invincible” after helping someone — such as an ill, elderly woman she carried to an ambulance.

“It made me feel so good,” she remarks, adding that she was also touched by the New Market community’s appreciation for the squad.

‘A Big Heart’

However, after a year and a half, Dove said her inability to drive became a problem, and she had to leave the squad. For the past 20 years, she has taken on odd jobs to support herself, and continued to help others by volunteering on the Broadway Rescue Squad.

According to Broadway local Mary Barb, Dove also helped control the community’s stray animal population by trapping, fixing and vaccinating stray cats.

“She has a big heart,” says Barb. “She wants to help everybody.”

Linville local Lisa Heatwole, an employee at Broadway’s Pleasant View home for the handicapped, agrees.

“I think a lot of her,” says Heatwole, who turned to Dove for help with controlling the stray animals around Pleasant View. “I wish I could buy her a house and help her out more.”

‘Couldn’t Breathe’

Dove’s life came to a standstill when her health started rapidly deteriorating almost two years ago. In July 2011, she developed what doctors presumed was another case of bronchitis, but she says she knew something else was wrong.

“I couldn’t breathe,” she recalls.

After insisting on further testing, she says a high density CAT scan showed mosaic attenuation and a thickening of the lungs.

According to Dove, samples of her lungs were removed during a surgery at Rockingham Memorial Hospital in November 2011, and she was eventually diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis.

‘A Lot Of Life Left’

Dove, a nonsmoker, was sent to the University of Virginia Medical Center in early 2012, where she completed a series of breathing tests and was additionally diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Her life now consists of weekly doctor appointments at UVA and pulmonary rehab sessions with the “awesome PT staff” at RMH. In addition to the exhaustion and physical pain of fighting to breathe every day, Dove says COPD has taken an emotional toll.

“Every night, I go to bed thinking I won’t wake up,” she says. “And every morning, I wake up thinking I won’t be able to breathe.”

Additionally, Dove had to leave her kerosene-burning trailer, and now rents a bedroom in Broadway. Most of her cats, whom she refers to as “her family,” had to be relocated to a friend’s farm.

“Animals love you with everything they’ve got,” she says. “Not being with them is killing me.”

Despite a combination of medications and inhalers, Dove says she is currently unable to work or even “run half a block.” She remains, however, determined to keep on fighting.

“I’m only 39 years old,” she says. “I’ve got life left in me.”

Contact Katie King at 574-5271 or kking@dnronline.com.

Want To Help?

Dove is searching for a good home for Big Boy, her 10-year-old, neutered male cat. He is currently living on her friend’s farm, but Dove thinks he would prefer a quiet, indoor home.

Anyone interested in adopting Big Boy, or providing other forms of support, should contact Dove’s father Ronald at (540) 560-7047.