Feature: Face to face with COPD
Although relatively few people have heard of it, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) kills on average one person every 10 seconds. COPD is not a simple smoker's cough, but an under-diagnosed, life threatening lung disease. The most common symptoms of COPD are breathlessness, or a 'need for air', excessive sputum production, and a chronic cough.
Eighty million people have moderate to severe COPD. In a world where more and more people are dying as a result of COPD, and many more millions are disabled, the following quotes from people with COPD aim to demonstrate the strong and personal impact of chronic respiratory diseases on individuals and their families.
We gratefully thank the International Coalition against COPD (ICC) and the COPD Foundation for their support and help in this project.
"I was diagnosed with COPD in 2001. My doctors recommend that I undergo a lung transplantation, and told me that without this procedure, I would not live more than 5 years. But I didn’t want to go through with the surgery because the risks were too great, so I began my own research to find an alternative solution. I found my solution through pulmonary rehabilitation. I have worked up to exercising 3 days a week for 4 hours, doing both aerobic exercises and strength training to build upper-body strength. Since then, I haven't been back to the hospital for my lung problems."
Thomas Hurd, 68 years, Michigan, United States of America
"For a few years now, I cannot go to the market by myself: the walk is simply too long. Because of that, I don't see my friends as often as I would like. Before my diagnosis, I had never heard about COPD. I thought coughing every day and wheezing from time to time were normal because of my age. Now I know that smoking chicha, an old tradition in our culture, has caused my breathing problems."
Moufida Afaf Malta, Lattakia, Syria
"When I was 16 years old, my primary doctor told me that smoking would help me lose weight, so every time I started a diet, I also started to smoke.
Now I am an invisible picture of COPD disability. I am not yet using oxygen, but I know that day will come. I am unable to do many of the things I love. I cannot dance. I cannot do my own food shopping. I cannot take long walks along the river at sunset with my husband."
Elaine L. Ackley, 58 years, New York, United States of America
"To look at me there's nothing wrong, it's all inside you see,
But once you hear me laugh, you experience fragile me.
Lungs will not support my voice, scarcely express my glee,
Enjoying another glorious day or breathing air that's free. "
"New Way of Living", Leland Gordon Vogel, 68 years,
Napavine (WA), United States of America
"As a child, I had frequent colds and bronchitis. Some 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with COPD. Today I receive medications, I participate in pulmonary rehabilitation, and use I supplementary oxygen to keep my condition stable. My family has been affected financially because of the high cost of treatments. I also have had to cut back on social activities as a result of my condition."
Vlady Rozenbaum, 66 years, United States of America
"I smoked for about 33 years and used all forms of tobacco products along the way. In 1994, I was diagnosed with asthma and in 1998, I was diagnosed with emphysema (COPD). Like most people, I wrestled with my respiratory conditions for a few years. Then, after learning about it from a friend, I went through an 8-week pulmonary rehabilitation course. It was a great help for me. I learnt about COPD, as well as common medications, handling anxiety and depression, and the long-term benefits of starting a regular exercise programme. Maintaining physical exercise has become a regular part of my routine, and has enabled me to remain active in the community and help others."
Bryan Clift, 79 years, Adelaide, Australia