MY JOURNEY THROUGH OLD AGE WITH COPD
Recently bereaved 80 year old Joe lives on the Central Coast of NSW, and describes how he finally came to cope with this debilitating condition:
I was diagnosed with emphysema a long time ago. The doctor told me if I valued my health I should stop smoking straight away. I am too fit, this is not going to happen to me. How stupid and wrong I was!
I finally stopped smoking at the age of 69. I was still coaching 12 year-olds soccer at the time but while running the breathing was laboured. In a few words it was too late. First thing that happened was angina, then came shortness of breath. My late wife Jo was a nursing sister. She looked after me well but I still had the whole family constantly worried. When Jo was first diagnosed with cancer she did not pity herself. She cried and said,” Sorry Joe, I will not be able to look after you as I used to do now.”
Before Jo became ill we would often walk then my breathing suddenly stopped me as I gasped for air. This was happening prior to my current condition. After my wife died my resistance decreased and I was hospitalised on two occasions with severe chest infections.
I am now on oxygen 17 hours a day. I hire oxygen at $90 a month and the power bill is astronomical. I even had to spend $5000 on a portable oxygen unit as I cannot go out without it. I loved sports and swimming but now I am very apprehensive about going out. My children and grandchildren are worried stiff about me. My younger daughter Lorraine comes over on weekends and does my shopping and house work. My 18 year-old grandson Hayden who is a Uni student lives with me during the week and gets upset when I become breathless after trying to do something. He says, “ Grandpa, I am here to make sure that you do not do anything that is not good for you”.
I had been going to the gym before Jo became ill, and in January I resumed this activity. My breathing had become so bad that I was embarrassed when I had to do the exercises sitting down. Imagine if you can, a very active person who had spent a lot of his time playing sport, football, tennis and swimming, finding himself not being able to do the simplest of exercises – that’s me.
Am I coping with my condition? No, I am not. The once confident person has disappeared, gone, completely gone. There are times when I am alone at night. I stay awake for as long as my eyes can stand looking at a TV screen. Morning I am out of bed by 6 am. I have the oxygen on all night, but just walking to the bathroom sees it drop from 94 to 81. So I simply sit down on the bed and wait until the oxygen builds up to my satisfaction the I go back to sleep. Now thanks to the gym I am again trying to build up my confidence and ameliorate my condition as much as I possibly can.