Jim Cooper’s Legacy

This short film (13 minutes) tells the real life story of Jim Ray Cooper and his experiences during the last six years of his life with advanced lung disease. Mr. Cooper was a Navy Frogman in the Korean War. The frogmen were predecessors for the modern day Navy Seals. Frogman training requires much higher levels of fitness, and during the course there is often a high elimination rate of trainees who do not make the grade. Mr. Cooper held a record for holding his breath for five minutes! It was indeed ironic that he developed severe lung disease and was chronically breathless and oxygen dependant.

In 2005, Mr. Cooper was told that he was dying of advanced lung disease and that he had less than six months to live. At that time, he was suffering with severe breathlessness and pain and was terrified that he was going to suffocate to death as his lung disease worsened.

Mr. Cooper was referred to Dr. Periyakoil’s Palliative Care Clinic for pain and symptom management. Dr. Periyakoil and her team began providing intensive palliative care and were able to control his pain, depression, breathlessness, PTSD and other distressing symptoms. Once his symptoms were under control, Jim regained his desire to live and spent the last six years of his life with his family.

As palliative care experts had helped him live longer and feel better, Mr. Cooper became passionately committed to increasing public awareness of this new and important medical sub-specialty. To this end, he asked Dr. Periyakoil to film his final years and use his story to teach patients, their families and health care personnel about the process of serious illness and the benefits of palliative care. He was particularly committed to facilitating access to Palliative Care for seriously ill Veterans and their families.

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