NBC News’ John Palmer Dies

Veteran NBC News reporter John Palmer has died. The 77-year-old former White House Correspondent and Today show host died at George Washington Hospital, after a brief illness, of pulmonary fibrosis.

Here is a tribute to Palmer, given by long-time friend Andrea Mitchell, this morning on the Today show :

What is Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a disease in which tissue deep in your lungs becomes thick and stiff, or scarred, over time. The formation of scar tissue is called fibrosis.

As the lung tissue thickens, your lungs can’t properly move oxygen into your bloodstream. As a result, your brain and other organs don’t get the oxygen they need.

PF is a serious disease that usually affects middle-aged and older adults. PF varies from person to person. In some people, fibrosis happens quickly. In others, the process is much slower. In some people, the disease stays the same for years.

Although some causes of PF are known- environment exposure to silica and metal dusts, cigarette smoking, certain viral infections and chemotherapy drugs- most cases have no obvious cause and are called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Genetics may play a role in causing IPF. If more than one member of your family has IPF, the disease is called familial IPF.

In IPF, scarring begins in the air sac walls and the spaces around them. The scarring makes the walls of the air sacs thicker. This makes it harder for oxygen to pass through the air sac walls into the bloodstream.


The main symptoms are:

  • shortness of breath
  • dry, hacking cough
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • rapid shallow breathing

IPF has no cure yet. Many people live only about 3 to 5 years after diagnosis. The most common cause of death related to IPF is respiratory failure. Other causes of death include pulmonary hypertension , heart failure, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia , and lung cancer.

Although IPF is a progressive, irreversible disease, there are some treatment modalities that can slow progression or improve symptoms. These include anti-inflammatory drugs such as Prednisone, oxygen therapy (periods of continuous oxygen use by nasal prongs or mask), pulmonary therapy (exercises to increase stamina) and in some cases, lung transplantation.

For more information about pulmonary fibrosis, click here to go the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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