April 3, 2014

Chris Collins


Chris is a 74 year old retiree who lives on the NSW South Coast. A long term smoker, he acquired emphysema and tells of his hazardous journey since that diagnosis which led to a lung operation. He and his lovely wife Pat still live in a house which they started to build when he was so diagnosed.

My journey with COPD started when I found I could not run up the driveway as I had a few months previously. I was short of breath and took a few minutes to recover. I consulted my GP and stated “I need something to stop me smoking before the ‘Fags’ killed me”. He replied, “and they will” so from there on we took time out to digest the importance of his words.

Nicotine replacement therapy tablets seemed to do the job ‘cos in two months I was a non-smoker. Hoo-bloody-hoo-ray! We soon moved house to one with lots of steps and found that my breathing was no better. So back to the GP who sent me to my Specialist (as they do) who sent me off for more tests including X-Rays. These revealed some unwanted results which led to a right lobectomy (removal of part of right lung). All nasty and a painful several weeks.

It was then that I was introduced to a marvellous team of people who helped to modify my thinking on how to manage my poor breathing and to manage my daily work load. Luckily my wife/carer and myself are retired so we don’t have to be at the office or where-ever by a certain time. However, the household chores, gardening , shopping, still have to be done so we had to work out how to do the  jobs without getting exhausted doing them. For example, it now takes a little longer to do the mowing. But hey, who cares! We can do some tomorrow if we can’t finish it today. This team of qualified, dedicated medical professionals are great to discuss things like breathing control with and they do know it all and are certainly compassionate.

This disease not only makes breathing difficult but also weakens (in my case) the immune system, which makes me most susceptible to any colds, flu or chest infections going about the community. I get very cheesed-off with the frequency of these bouts of ill-health but at least I’m still here and able to talk about it. I worked as a  Speciality salesman for 25 years and in so doing, along with many of my colleagues, smoked cigarettes during all of that period and more besides. I don’t know that I have been informed that I had COPD. It has been more of an assumption that bronchitis, asthma etc, all come under the heading of COPD. Anyway, the treatment for all of this is by controlled dosage puffers. They have to be taken twice a day and offer relief of the symptoms of COPD, mainly shortage of breath.

My GP and Specialists have all been marvellous in their management of my disease and fit me in at an hours notice if needed. Although our lives have changed quite a bit because of my illness we are still quite active within our community with lots of social get-togethers, entertaining etc. My wife Pat is treasurer of a local Branch of an international Club. I play music in three different bands locally and we’ve learned to live alongside the illness which some people treat as a death sentence. With the weekly maintenance class I attend, together with a fair amount of exercise throughout the week, I believe we have lots of years left in the old dogs yet. With the help of your health professionals, exercise and a healthy diet I believe we can have an enjoyable and fulfilling  life in spite of COPD.