April 3, 2014

John Baddock


Even if smoking does not kill immediately the long-term effects mean an inexorable decline in health.  Having been a veteran smoker John was finally diagnosed with COPD. He is now a keen participant in self help breathing groups and urges others afflicted with COPD not to give in but ‘try to retain a realistic but positive outlook’.

My name is John Baddock, aged 69 and I live with my wife in Bathurst, NSW. As for having a carer, my wife Pam is my main carer along with supportive Pulmonary staff from Bathurst Hospital and my local doctor and a Respiratory Specialist.

My main occupation over almost 50 years was in sales and management positions in the food/grocery industry with companies such as Heinz/ Plumrose/Wrigleys/ Red Tulip/Edgell Birds Eye/ American Express/ Goodman Fielder and in later life part time positions with a Food Broker/ KR Darling Downs and Nestle.

Unfortunately, I did smoke cigarettes from about age 17 to 29, and it didn’t help that my first full time job starting as an office boy at W D and H O Wills (for 6 years) included free cigarettes any time from the company. I am not blaming them as I was the fool who did the smoking, they didn’t force me!

I contracted pneumonia at age 29 and the doctor said you cannot smoke for 3 weeks so I didn’t restart. It is uncertain if smoking had any bearing on my lung disease as I was once told by parents/grandmother that as a child I did have severe measles which can cause damage to the lungs but doesn’t necessarily show up until later in life.

In my early thirties, I started to have a lot of persistent coughs and felt off colour and generally unwell and often went to a doctor. Invariably, a doctor would say you have a chest infection, take some antibiotics and after a few days I would feel better and continue on. Rarely did I have days off work. Additionally, I had frequent bouts of ulcerative colitis which is quite debilitating and inconvenient as it makes you feel weak with weight loss.

This pattern of coughing increased as I moved into my late thirties/early forties and was often a case of embarrassment and inconvenience especially when at meetings with staff, customers and family. I was offered a significant work promotion which involved, if my wife and I accepted, an interstate move from our hometown of Melbourne to Sydney. I was sent for a medical examination by a company doctor who after a basic examination stated that I was fine and OK to accept this job promotion.

In Sydney Head Office of Wrigleys and with interstate and international travel, the coughing increased, infections increased and often it was a real problem at customer and in house work meetings. It was a particular issue at times when flying as I tried to not cough in such a confined space and having to sit for long periods of time in such close proximity to other passengers.

The coughing and lung clearance issues continued to worsen and finally at age 57 my local doctor sent me to an allergy specialist. Following some tests he said you have Bronchiectasis, and need regular lung clearance and antibiotics.

In 2000, we moved to Bathurst and I was referred to a local Respiratory Specialist who has treated me since then. In 2008, he diagnosed another respiratory disease on top of the Bronchiectasis. This is a more dangerous infection called M.A.C.(Myco Bacterium Avian Complex). This involved a hospital 2 week stay, on going daily medications for 16 months and regular physio, along with a risk that it can re-occupy.

Six months later, it did and as well as the same treatment plus a bronchoscopy, I am on hospital only drugs for an indefinite period. The specialist has stated that having had it twice the risk of it recurring is high and is all part of an auto-immune deficiency  (along with recurring bouts of ulcerative colitis.)

I have been very satisfied with the medical assistance received by doctors, specialists, physios and hospital staff, especially a respiratory rehab. course run by the COPD dept. at Bathurst Hospital. I have become a volunteer in the 12-16 week course and enjoy assisting others with all types of lung diseases. Additionally, and with the assistance of Alison Croaker, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Gaylene Nelson, Occupational Therapist, in April 2010,we created a Bathurst Division of the Lung Net Support Group and it is called Bathurst Ezi-Breathers. As President we have an active committee and meet on a monthly basis with various guest speakers on different subjects but all related to COPD. We also played an active role outside the Bathurst Hospital on COPD Day Nov. 17 2010 and raised $500 plus for the Lung Foundation.

Pam and I have learnt to manage with COPD by accepting it and doing as best we can with the realisation that it is incurable but it is also manageable and the worst thing you can do is to sit around and do nothing. The future – who knows? But others should not give in to it and try to retain a realistic but positive outlook. Trust that this overview is of some help and encouragement to others with COPD.