A Lothian resident is today encouraging people to take their lung health seriously by sharing the challenges she faces living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – on World COPD Day.
Dorothy Keith is supporting the British Lung Foundation’s campaign to encourage people not to overlook or forget about their lung health. The charity has told how millions of people across the UK have COPD but most don’t even know it.
COPD is the name used to describe a number of conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Every year 115,000 people are diagnosed with COPD – equivalent to a new diagnosis every five minutes. But that’s just the “tip of the iceberg” according to the head of BLF Scotland.
Dorothy said: “I was having terrible, terrible breathlessness. It came to a head one day when I was at work. I couldn’t take two steps without stopping because I was so out of breath. I have to say, it was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.
“I’d never heard of COPD before. At the time I was quite relieved to get a diagnosis and know what it was, but when I looked it up on the internet it gave me a bit of a fright, it gave me quite a shake.”
Dorothy was eventually sent to pulmonary rehabilitation classes. It was there she heard about a local singing group for people with lung conditions which she says has vastly improved her condition.
She said: “I can’t sing, but I’m always singing. So I thought, I quite fancy that. So I started going to the Monday afternoon meetings. It’s a laugh. And the singing has absolutely helped with my breathing, it’s wonderful. At my last rehab session, I did a walking test and could only manage two and a half minutes. Six months later I went for my check-up and did the test again, that time I did ten minutes. I was so happy, I was like a child that had been given its first ice cream.”
The BLF is encouraging anyone who gets out of breath doing everyday tasks, such as walking up stairs, to see their GPs to get tested for the condition.
Irene Johnstone, head of the British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: “COPD is the only major cause of death in Scotland which is still rising.
“It isn’t just a smokers’ disease. It usually develops because of long-term damage to your lungs from breathing in a harmful substance, usually cigarette smoke, as well as smoke from other sources and air pollution. Jobs where people are exposed to dust, fumes and chemicals can also contribute to developing COPD. That could be anyone.
“In Scotland, we know of 100,000 people that have this condition and numbers are increasing. However, many, many people have this life-limiting lung disease and don’t even know it. However, Dorothy’s story shows us that you can take control.”