July 7, 2016

Sandie Parter – COPD

I’m Sandie Parter. My ancestors come from the Darumbal tribe of Rockhampton and the Tanna, Ambrym and Lifou people from Vanuatu.

Both sides of my family had a history of asthma and my beloved dad passed away from respiratory failure due to chronic asthma back in 2008. Even though he stopped smoking in his twenties, I think passive smoking combined with his asthma made his health worse.

When I was young I suffered from asthma too and then as a teenager I started smoking (as teenagers do!).  For the next thirty years I smoked unaware of the damage I was doing to my vital organs.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 50s in 2008 and I was hospitalised with pneumonia, that I realised I had done serious damage to my lungs and had to quit smoking. I was very determined and thought, ‘I will give up smoking or die trying’. Using nicotine replacement therapy and working closely with my GP for support, I successfully stopped smoking and by early 2009, I was totally nicotine-free. Although I had stopped smoking I was told by the doctor that my lungs where so damaged that I had developed COPD.

I tried to cope the best I could with my condition but on many occasions I would get chest infections which would lead to exacerbations and I would find myself in hospital. Believe it or not hospital records show I was admitted a shocking 52 times in one year!

I remember, one night I was having serious trouble breathing and was sitting in bed awake breathless and watching my lips, fingers and hands turning blue due to lack of oxygen. My partner had to rush me to hospital.

My worst memory from hospital is when I fell unconscious. I actually remember nothing but darkness. I was told later that a nurse, checking on another patient, noticed I was in respiratory failure and rushed over to revive me. Two hours later I fell back into respiratory failure. After that all I remember is hearing people’s voices. I also felt like I couldn’t move as if I was somehow being tied down. I remember thinking I want to see my kids and grandchildren again.  Then I heard ‘wake up Sandie’ I thought I was dreaming but it was my mum. I woke to find my mum, kids and grandchildren around my bed. I said ‘what’s going on?’ My son explained that I was in a coma for ten days and I had to be revived twice. I couldn’t believe it. I looked around to find needles, tubes and oxygen tanks surrounding me. I was terrified. The doctor explained that my heart was probably working overtime due to the lack of oxygen and that’s why I blacked out. It was three weeks later when I finally got released from hospital, happy to be alive.

All this stress over the past ten years has been the result of smoking that first cigarette as a teenager. One cigarette was all it took to start an addiction to smoking and for me to nearly be taken away from my beloved family as a result!

Now, when people smoke near me I say, “Excuse me! Keep your butt out of my face!”