23 November 2017
I met my husband when we were both 16 years old, and we were inseparable from the off. Originally from Newcastle and one of 11, he was my rock and loved by all for his charm and happy demeanour.
We’d been smokers all our lives. One day I decided that enough was enough and took the plunge to go cold turkey. It took him a little longer to shake the habit, but we both eventually succeeded.
We never had any children, but we shared a passion for dogs and owned several in our life together. Pictures of each and every one of them sit dutifully behind their frames, hanging in pride of place along the living room walls.
I’m currently living with Daisy – a shy yet ever-so friendly greyhound. She’d won numerous races in her younger life but sadly had not been treated very well during that period and in the aftermath. She chose us. We sat down at the rescue centre and she just walked over to me, went around the back of my chair, came to the front again, sat down and rested her head on my lap.
One day, after the usual play-wrestle with Daisy on the living room rug, I noticed my husband was getting tremendously out of breath. Thinking it to be nothing more than a mild chest infection, which a routine check with the GP agreed with at the time, life carried on as normal for a while.
But the symptoms persisted to the extent that it had started to affect his everyday life. Just walking up the stairs was proving to be a real ordeal. A further check-up resulted in more tests, just to be on the safe side and sadly, a different diagnosis was given on this occasion. It was the onset of emphysema. A form of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), emphysema is a disease mainly caused by smoking.
People who don’t smoke but have long-term severe asthma can get COPD and it can also be caused by long-term exposure to air pollution, fumes and dust from the environment or your place of work.
He was prescribed drugs for breathlessness and a tight chest which helped ease the symptoms tremendously for a time. He was like a new man for a while, but we knew that the long term prognosis wasn’t good. The time came where he needed to go into hospital to receive non-invasive ventilation – a mask which covers the face and is connected to a machine that pushes air into the lungs in order to increase oxygen intake and expel carbon dioxide. He tried the mask but, being quite claustrophobic, asked to have it removed after a short time.
Up until he died, I hadn’t even heard of the BLF. I hadn’t asked them for advice on their helpline, I hadn’t read about COPD in their leaflet or website, nor had either of us attended a Breathe Easy support group. It wasn’t until I asked his nurse at the hospital – Ruth – who I could leave something to that the BLF ever came up.
I would like to help prevent this for others in any way that I can. That is why I have chosen to leave a gift in my Will to the British Lung Foundation.
Anonymous British Lung Foundation supporter.