Don’t put it off. Don’t do what I did - the words of John Matthews, a victim of Coronary Obstructive Pumonary Disease (COPD).
“I hadn’t even heard of COPD when I was diagnosed in September, you might as well have said bingo to me,’ John told the Democrat this week. Now John struggles to walk for more than three or four minutes.
John, who suffers with diabetes and emphysema, smoked 30 cigarettes a day all his adult life and attributes his current condition to it. “It’s impossible to say that it 100 per cent responsible, but it’s a huge contributing factor.”
John (57) believes that he first started experiencing the symptoms as far back as 11 years ago, but like many men of his generation, he refused to go to the doctor.
“I was short of breath and exhausted taking very little exercise. I’d be grey in the face after walking up a flight of stairs. I put it down to everything, be it smoking or drinking pints. I didn’t want to be seen to complain.”
It came to a head this September when he was experiencing severe shortness and pains in his chest, and admitted himself to Our Lady of Lourdes.
“They diagnosed me with stage three COPD.”
COPD is a non reversible, chronic and progressive illness, though John’s aim and that of his health care workers is to stop the disease progressing.
The disease has four stages, going from one to four in order of severity, four being most disabling stage.
“If I had gone to the doctor and gotten diagnosed earlier, when I was stage one or two, I could have done more. It’s not a process that can be reversed.”
John says the treatment he has received has been excellent. “I was diagnosed on September 2, and a nurse, Majella, was making a home visit the very next day.”
John main treatment is several different inhalers and other medication.
“I would have given out about the HSE but they have been brilliant. I also get physio twice a week from Nancy at the Louth Hospital. She is brilliant, though strict and pushes us hard. She treats us like adults. There are a group of us there, and some would be on oxygen tanks.”
“I warn people not to do what I did. Smoking absolutely destroys your health. I’m paying the price now.”
With almost 40 people in County Louth dying from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD in 2013, a new national awareness campaign, Save Your Breath, has been launched by COPD Support Ireland to encourage people to know the symptoms and to visit their doctor if they have concerns.
For more information visit www.copd.ie