- Vulnerable Australians, young and old, unite in a video message for the public: Our lives are in your hands. We are the vulnerable and we need your help. Your actions today will save lives tomorrow. Staying apart will bring us together. United against COVID-19.
- People with COPD are five times more likely to die from COVID-19: 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 40 face a heart-breaking reality.
- COVID-19 will have devastating consequences for 1 in 3 Australians: 7 million Australians who have lung disease or lung cancer are at risk of a fatal case of the virus.
A GROUP of Australia’s most vulnerable community members have united with leading lung health charity, Lung Foundation Australia, in a public plea to help save their lives in the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Among the group is Noni Strawbridge, a 30-year-old battling a deadly and debilitating lung disease. Knowing that she has a high risk of dying if she contracts COVID-19 has her and her family in the grips of unimaginable stress. Her message for you is simple – your actions today will save lives tomorrow.
“We know a lot of people are following government advice and staying home, but I hope my voice and my message can make a difference to the few who aren’t,” Noni said.
“I’m frustrated and frightened that there are still people not taking this seriously. Each individual person has the power to really help through social distancing and staying home. Your actions today can literally be the difference between life and death for somebody like me.
“I don’t like to say that I’m disabled or I’m vulnerable but when you look at the research and crunch the numbers, the reality is if I get this, I won’t survive it. It’s a very sobering thought.”
And Noni is not alone.
Leading respiratory physician and Lung Foundation Australia Chair, Professor Christine Jenkins AM, said there are millions of Australians, young and old, facing the devastating reality that they are unlikely to survive if they are infected with COVID-19.
“Imagine being told you are five times more likely to die from COVID-19. We know this is the case for 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 40 battling Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD),” Professor Jenkins said.
“While it’s important to know that some people infected with the COVID-19 virus may not get sick at all, as a community we need to come together to protect the many mothers, fathers, sons and daughters living with a lung disease or lung cancer who are at high risk of experiencing a fatal case.”
This is the devastating reality for husband and father, Russell Winwood, who lives with COPD.
“We haven’t faced anything like this in our lifetime and the message I’d like to get across to people is, do you really want to kill someone close to you? Whether it’s your parents, your grandparents or your kids – so many people have conditions that make them susceptible to this, so we’ve all got to come together and fight it together,” Russell said.
Lung Foundation Australia Chief Executive Officer Mark Brooke said the number of people who live or die from this pandemic is literally in the hands of the community.
“We thank the majority of Australians who are doing the right thing. By staying away and staying home, you are literally saving lives. However, following another weekend of crowds gathering at beaches and markets across the country and with Easter fast approaching, we’re extremely concerned that even those who have been taking social distancing measures seriously will be tempted to gather with their loved ones this weekend,” Mr Brooke said.
“We know this will be a tough weekend for many people who are feeling disconnected from their family and friends, but our advice for everyone is simple – stay home. We encourage you to find other ways to connect through technology and band together, from afar.
Mr Brooke said Lung Foundation Australia is facing unprecedented demand for its services as patients face one of their greatest challenges.
“After supporting tens of thousands of people with lung disease and lung cancer through the devastating bushfires, we are now in the grip of a respiratory disease pandemic which has left the world reeling, shattering the global and Australian economy. As Australia’s most trusted lung health charity, Lung Foundation Australia is facing twin challenges – increasing requests for help and a reduced community-based fundraising of almost $1.2 million in confirmed fundraising events that have been cancelled.
“We’re working hard to adapt our services to arm people like Noni, Russell and their families with tailored information and support that will help them through this difficult time. Australians with lung disease and lung cancer, those most vulnerable at this time, come to Lung Foundation Australia because they know and trust us to provide tailored information to every patient or carer. We encourage anyone living with lung disease and lung cancer to reach out to us via our website or free call 1800 654 301. We’re here with you, every step of the way, and we can offer vital support services and resources to help ease this journey.”
“For the rest of the community, please, do your part and heed government advice to stay home. You can also make an impact by helping us to keep our services running in the face of unprecedented demand and financial distress.
“Stand united with us to ensure Australians with lung disease and lung cancer have access to our life-saving support services during this difficult time. Together we can protect the vulnerable. Together we are united against COVID-19.”
To view the campaign video and make a donation, visit lungfoundation.com.au/donate.
Real stories – messages to the community
We are the vulnerable. And we need you.
Michelle, age 54, living with bronchiectasis: “If it was one of your family or your friend that was suddenly very ill, it’s too late to take a stance at that stage, so let’s all come together and take social distancing and staying at home seriously. If we look out for each other, we’ll all come through this together and be a lot better on the other side.”
Noni, age 30, living with Interstitial Lung Disease: “I’m frustrated and frightened that some Australians aren’t taking this seriously. Each individual person has the power to really help. Your action today can literally be the difference between life and death for somebody who is elderly or living with chronic condition like lung disease or lung cancer.”
Russell, age 53, living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: “The reality is we haven’t struck anything like this in our lifetime and the message I’d like to get across to people is, do you really want to kill someone close to you? Because that’s what it comes down to – whether it’s your parents, your grandparents, your kids – we’re all susceptible to this so we’ve all got to come together and fight it together.”
Terri, age 51, living with lung cancer: “It seems that there is this perception that we’re all bulletproof, that no one is going to get hurt, that it’s not going to happen to you because you’re healthy and happy. The reality for me and many other people with lung diseases or lung cancer is that this is a death sentence for us. It’s not just about you anymore – it’s about everybody. My death may not impact on you at all, but to my loved ones, it’s a big deal.”
Bill, age 66, living with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: “Everyday we’re hearing about more and more people unnecessarily exposing others to this disease without thinking. I’m amazed at the way some Australians have ignored this. If you look back to the bushfires, everybody did what they needed to do. The town evacuated when they had to, people took the actions they had. I think the way this virus is being presented as just another flu has led people to be quite blase about it and I just say to them, please, think of everybody else in this country. Think of those of us who are vulnerable and try and slow this down because without people social distancing, we have little hope of controlling where this goes.”
Caroline, age 73, carer and advocate: “The issue is that if too many vulnerable people actually get infected, they will get seriously ill and put a huge strain on our health system. People who aren’t taking social distancing seriously are being incredibly selfish. This isn’t about opinions; this is about evidence-based information. Our lives are in your hands.”
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 Lippi G, Henry BM, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is associated with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Respiratory Medicine (2020), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rmed.2020.105941.