Breathless not Helpless

16 November 2009

Wednesday is the eighth annual World COPD Day, an event held each November to raise awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worldwide.

The World COPD Day theme, “Breathless Not Helpless!” emphasizes that effective treatments are available for people who have been diagnosed with COPD, and raises awareness that—for people who have not been diagnosed—breathlessness is a signal that they should see their doctor for a lung function test.

Taranaki DHB COPD group is celebrating the day with a walk in Pukekura Park and long time COPD member Peter Kneepkins (78) will be there.

Peter was diagnosed with emphysema 14 years ago and he has been going to the gym twice a week ever since. “Doing this exercise has kept me alive,” he said. “The hardest part is leaving home. I might be out of breath, my body hurts but you have to keep going.”

Peter is a great advocate of exercise and keeps in regular contact with COPD coordinator Linda Cloke. “You can’t give in to it,” said Mr Kneepkins.

This year, with public attention around the world focused on the H1N1 influenza virus, the “Breathless Not Helpless!” theme also serves as a reminder of the many things COPD patients can do to keep themselves healthy. “Respiratory infections like influenza—of which H1N1 is one type—can cause exacerbations, or worsening of COPD symptoms,” explains Roberto Rodriguez-Roisin, MD, Chair of the Executive Committee of the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). “Exacerbations can decrease a COPD patient’s quality of life, and it can take a long time to recover from one. But COPD patients can take action to prevent or minimize the impact of exacerbations.”

“Staying active, getting proper nutrition, plenty of rest, and taking regular COPD medication as directed by a doctor are important strategies to help patients keep their lungs as healthy as possible and avoid exacerbations,” says Linda Cloke Taranaki DHB  Clinical Nurse Specialist, Respiratory. “Getting a pneumococcal vaccine and yearly flu shot will also help prevent the infections that can lead to exacerbations.”

COPD is a non-communicable lung disease that progressively robs sufferers of breath. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, causing more than 3 million deaths every year. Moreover, recent studies indicate that 25% to 50% of people with clinically significant COPD don’t know they have the disease. 

Without treatment, COPD is generally a progressive disease, and as the disease gets worse patients become breathless during everyday activities such as climbing a flight of stairs, walking the dog, or even getting washed and dressed in the morning.

A photo opportunity and possible interview with COPD sufferer Peter Kneepkins will be at Pukekura Park on Wednesday 18th November at 10.30.

For more information please call
Sue Carrington
Media Adviser
Ph. 021 367 789

Last updated: Monday, October 4, 2010

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