Lung disease patients form choir as therapy

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MEET the supergroup which has discovered that when it comes to battling lung disease, tunes really can help you breathe easier.

A band of patients have formed their own choir to help them combat the symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – and are set to jokily perform songs including I Can Breathe Clearly Now.

The Cheyne Gang Choir, made up of around 15 patients from Stockbridge Health Centre, was the brainchild of nurses, Pauline Waugh, 44, and Sarah Head, 41, after they found singing could be used as an alternative therapy to help COPD sufferers.

They then decided to launch their own pilot project which can help improve the symptoms of the disease including extreme breathlessness.

Ms Head said: “It’s only a small group of patients involved but the benefits are already showing and it’s going really well.

“The sessions have more warming up and breathing techniques which people with a normal lung capacity would not necessarily need to do.

“The feedback we have had so far has been great – there have been fewer chest infections and they’ve said they are sleeping better and feeling happier overall.”

It may sound like an unlikely treatment but a study on COPD and singing from Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent has already shown that the benefits are real by helping to regulate breathing.

People with COPD – who can suffer symptoms including being constantly frightened they will run out of breath – tend to take gaspy breaths which fill up the lungs without clearing them.

The techniques used in singing encourage them to take much deeper and controlled breaths.

After securing funding the nurses have now hired a vocal coach who is set to prepare the gang for their first ever performance, on March 29, at the LifeCare Centre, on Cheyne Street.

The singers meet once a fortnight and are confident their chosen songs – Amarillo, Bye Bye Blackbird, Something Good and Eight Days a Week – along with their unique take on the Johnny Nash classic I Can See Clearly Now – will be a breeze.

And they had better not run out of breath on the night – after more than 160 people bought tickets to hear them perform as part of a fundraising tea party organised by Ms Head’s sister, Jane Howe, 44.

Ms Howe, a capability development business partner with Wood McKenzie, said the event had already raised more than £600 in aid of the MoonWalk charity, Walk the Walk Uniting Against Breast Cancer.

The party will also include a silent auction, tombola and another choir, Sing in the City.

‘Dramatic improvements’

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is an umbrella term which includes the conditions chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Symptoms can include a chesty cough, breathlessness, wheezing and anxiety.

Researcher Dr Ian Morrison, who was involved in a long-term study on COPD and singing last year, said it had been proved to improve lung function “dramatically”.