April 3, 2014

Daryl Rogers


The combination of tobacco smoke, agricultural fertilisers, dust and industrial chemicals can be a deadly combination as Daryl found out when he was told he had emphysema. His approach to his condition is to ‘make the most of what you have, and make my lungs work’.

Hi, I am Daryl Rogers, I live in Pakenham Victoria, with my wife who is my carer. It all started when I went to work back in 1958, I started smoking, which was the “in” thing at that time because nobody knew then what the consequences would be later in life. Smoking and working in dusty conditions on a dairy farm, which also involved working with chemicals, caused my emphysema.

At the age of 18 in 1962, I bought a car which meant I could go further to get a better job, as I thought. I started working for an Agricultural Contractor, because I loved the outdoors. I was working with artificial fertilizer tipping bags of it into a spreader with the chemical residue coming straight up in my face. In those days there was no protection of any kind as it was an unheard of thing.

After approximately seven years, the company went into drainage in market garden country, which in this area is made up of sandy loam. Consequently I was exposed to more dust and chemical residue and this continued for about nine years. I finally wanted a change and went driving trucks carrying cattle for four years – enough said about that.

After that I started working for a local council in the road construction crew. This meant working in more dust and chemicals from road stabilizing products, involving cement and lime dust which I put up with for a number of years until I got sick of it. I applied for another position with the same council which involved walking the footpaths noting any broken and dangerous footpaths, and then organizing for these areas to be repaired. I got to a stage where I could not walk around the block without having a rest. At this stage I was thinking there was something wrong with me.

After a visit to my local doctor, I was sent to see a lung specialist who sent me off for a lung function test. The results came back and at that time, I was given the news by the specialist that I would never work again and I was told I had emphysema. I wondered how this was going to affect me and my family life. I found I suffered from depression, and anxiety, which I still suffer from today – if something goes wrong.

By July 1997 at the age of 53, my wife and I had three children and I felt it was too early to be giving up work after being a workaholic (as the saying goes). My first reaction was “Where to now? What does the future hold? What am I going to do now?” I did a bit of part time work, on a relief situation for a while until I couldn’t do that anymore either.

I was rushed to hospital, having trouble breathing, but after a massive dose of drugs and great doses of oxygen along with some hours of pain, I would settle down. I would spend at least a week or more in hospital at a time. With some of the drugs I am taking, and after a bone density scan in September 2000, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis which is just another setback.

During a hospital stay during August 2002 I collapsed when being taken for a walk, as luck may have it my specialist was in the nurse’s station, and saw the whole thing happen. A short time later he came to visit me to tell me I would be going home and that I would have home oxygen waiting for me when I got there.

I was told I would have a rate of 3 litres for 15 to 24 hours a day which was a great tie. Sometimes you have to give a bit to keep yourself going. I find if the weather is stable, high temperature or low temperature, I feel reasonably well, but when temperature varies from day to day, that’s when I feel the worst.

Looking at living with COPD (as I am told it is now), you have to have an open mind.  The best way I have found to cope with it, is keep as active as possible, and try not to think you have anything wrong with you. I know we all have our ups and downs but look to the future with an open mind, do as much as you can and don’t sit around idle.

My wife and I still hook up the caravan, and go away for a month or more at a time, go where we want, do what we want, all in our own time. I know I get a lot funny looks towing along my bottle of oxygen in its trolley with hoses in your nose – but what the heck.

People approach you very carefully because they don’t know whether you like to talk about your condition or not. Once they realise you don’t mind taking about it they are very relieved. I feel the more of us that are out there, the more people are learning about the disorder – however if I didn’t have my oxygen I wouldn’t be where I am now.

As far as my doctor and specialist go, we have a good working relationship. I know if my congestion changes, we have all agreed to change some medication and then I make sure I go to the doctor. The few times I have been in hospital since starting my oxygen therapy, has been my own fault as I didn’t change my medications early enough.

My daily life has changed but I don’t sit around doing nothing. My idea is to make the most of what you have, and make my lungs work for me by pushing myself to the limit. It probably puts me through a little more pain but I am not going to lie around idle. It is only natural that my family worry about me, but they have all learned to live with me and my problem which is a great help. My wife has put up with a lot, because everything falls on her whenever I need urgent attention.

Future wise I will continue on the way I am going for as long as I can. I have a loving wife, three loving children, and their respective partners, eight loving grandchildren so I have lots to live for. So to sum up, smoking was not the only cause of my illness, there were chemicals and dust as well.