Olivia Bernard wants to make sure Augusta breathes easy.
The rising sophomore at Aquinas High School will conduct free screenings for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition that affects the airways and causes shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
Olivia, 14, has researched the disease while working toward her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn. Her mother and troop leader, Arlene Bernard, works as a respiratory therapist at Doctors Hospital, and her grandfather has COPD.
“I’ve seen the effects of it, so I don’t want that to happen to anybody else,” she said.
On Monday, participants in the screening will answer a short questionnaire. Those showing some signs of COPD will breathe into a device for a spirometry test. Results can be taken to their doctor.
“They blow as hard as they can into a machine. It measures different things about your airways,” Olivia said.
Two respiratory therapists will be available to answer questions at the screening at the Wilson Family Y. The screening takes just a few minutes, and no more than 100 people can be tested.
The leading cause of COPD is smoking, but Bernard said exposure to chemicals in a workplace or secondhand smoke can also contribute to the disease.
“The No. 1 preventative method is to quit smoking or just don’t start smoking at all,” she said.