Many people would not volunteer to spend a day living their life in the shoes of a COPD patient, however TV presenter Nadia Sawalha did take on the challenge. She spent a day as a COPD patient with a very tight corset around her waist and a mask over her mouth in order to simulate the constrained breathing conditions of a COPD sufferer and having oxygen equipment to take around with her. She then tried to go about her normal daily activities such as shopping and cooking.
She found it difficult even doing the little things such as walking up stairs and manoeuvring around the kitchen. She found it difficult to reach up and down for things, constantly stopping to pause for breath or to hold onto a wall. She had great difficulty getting around as the wheezing and gasping for breath always seemed to get in the way.
“It’s as if, when your airways narrow, so does your very life,” says Nadia. When asked about how she found the experience, she said that it was “truly horrific.” She recounts the feeling of “trying so hard to open your lungs” and being unable to have a conversation “because all you can think about is your next breath.”
Part of the reason that she undertook the challenge was because her nan suffered from COPD and she feels like she’s become a bit closer to her nan as she understands a bit more now the daily challenges that she went through. It has also made her understand the challenges COPD patients go through everyday and that she is fortunate to still have normally functioning lungs. Being a former smoker, she is now a strong advocate of early COPD diagnosis, especially after knowing how it feels like to lose a percentage of your breathing capacity. She realises now why patients need to be on supplemental oxygen just to get around but also how having the equipment attached to you all day can infringe on your mobility. She encourages people to get checked immediately if they think they may have COPD, saying that “it is not something you always get tested for, so it’s good to ask your doctor.”
Even though there are many challenges to overcome, exercising and keeping active is one of the best things COPD patients can do, other than quitting smoking. Keeping active will pay off and prevent the disease from worsening quickly and improve your mental well-being and quality of life.
An understanding of COPD is much needed in today’s society, especially where we see patients walking around with portable oxygen equipment. Becoming more aware of this condition helps us be more considerate toward our involvement in producing pollutants like cigarette and exhaust smoke or in the use of chemical irritants like cleaning solutions.
At the end of the challenge when Nadia could remove the corset she breathed a huge sigh of relief and it made her realise how lucky she was. Though people with COPD cannot do the same and just take off any virtual corset to feel better, with the right treatment and proper daily habits, there is hope to feeling much better and being able to breathe more easily. Hopefully Nadia has helped raise awareness of COPD and the daily struggles that patients go through and hopefully will encourage people to stop smoking and polluting the atmosphere so that fewer people suffer in the future.