July 3, 2015

Mary Kirkwood

Hi, my name is Mary. I would like to share my story about how COPD changed my life for the better.

I am 56 years old, divorced and a mother of three. Until recently, the only time I had ever been in hospital was when I was having my children, 27 years ago.  Having said that, throughout the years I have suffered with chronic asthma and my weight has always been a problem with both challenges stopping me from doing a lot of things.  In the past I was often depressed and spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself.

About 18 months ago I had terrible trouble sleeping.  Five minutes after lying down I would have to get up.  This went on for weeks. It got to the point that I was exhausted during the day from lack of sleep. I tried a few different natural sleeping medicines and even got sleeping tablets from my GP but I still couldn’t sleep.  The lack of sleep made me so depressed I would have been happy to go to sleep and never wake up.

One night I had enough. I just couldn’t cope with how I was feeling so I rang an ambulance. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what.  They took me to the hospital and within minutes of arriving I was rushed to the resuscitation room. I knew then that I was in trouble.

I remember the nurses putting a mask over my face and the next thing I recall is waking up in ICU three days later.  My diagnosis: COPD with CO2 retention.  When I sleep my oxygen levels drop and my carbon dioxide levels rise which means I now have to sleep with a biped machine with oxygen attached.

I went home 11 days later and still didn’t understand what it all meant so I started researching COPD and CO2 retention, spending my days and nights online learning everything I could.  After months of research I found a support group and the people there were amazing.  I learnt so much from them and soon realised that this wasn’t the end of my life but the beginning of a new chapter.

One of the first things I did was booked myself in to Pulmonary Rehabilitation three days a week.  The education was very helpful and the exercise side was hard (I won’t lie) but well worth it in the long run. I started swimming every day in a heated pool. I joined a dance class (line dancing) and started tai chi which teaches you how to focus and stay positive. In the process of strengthening my mind and body I lost the weight I needed to lose.

Today I look forward to waking up mentally, emotionally and physically stronger than I have ever been before. Through my support group I learnt that COPD wasn’t my end but my beginning;  it didn’t control my life anymore, I control it.  I haven’t felt this good in years!

I wanted to help people like me in my area so I started my own lung support group.  I finally found my purpose in life and that is to help and support other people who have the same struggles with COPD.  It hasn’t been an easy road with a lot of bumps along the way and sometimes you wonder if it’s all worth it.  All I can say to that is yes! It’s absolutely worth it!

I will leave you with a great quote…..

“I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she will make the same effort, and have the same hope and faith.”  Mahatma Gandhi