Chair of Swansea Bay Breathe Easy Group

Monday, January 19, 2009

Evening Post article Friday Jan 16th

BEVERLEY Roberts suffers with brittle asthma, and she is far from alone.

Her condition is a severe form of the illness, so severe that intensive medication and a trip to hospital could be needed. There are about 1,500 sufferers in the UK, but that is not what gives her comfort.

It is the support she gets from Swansea Bay Breathe Easy group, which was formed three years ago, and which Beverley is now secretary of.

Now, she is backing Evening Post charity of the year British Lung Foundation Wales (BLF) in its call for more people to join such groups.

"The BLF and Breathe Easy support groups provide essential help, support and advice to anyone who has a lung condition, and their families," she said.

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"I would urge anyone with a lung condition to join the BLF and go to their local meeting, where they will find a warm welcome.

"The daily challenges of living with lung disease are not easy, and people often find themselves becoming isolated, and afraid nobody understands what they are going through. Within the groups, firm friendships have been established. Members look out for one another, offering comfort and support.

"Since I became involved with the BLF I am more positive about living with brittle asthma, and the daily grind of nebulisers and other medications, coughing, wheezing and lifestyle changes."

Interacting with Swansea Bay Breathe Easy works for Beverley, and BLF Wales has good news for other sufferers. More such groups are on their way this year.

It is one of the items on the organisation's wish-list for 2009. It signs off as the Post's charity of the year at the end of next month, but is keen to go out on a high — with two areas of improvement in its sights.

The first is for a greater understanding of lung disease, so people get diagnosed earlier.

One in five people in Wales have some type of lung disease, varying in severity from mild asthma to lung cancer. But many are unaware of the symptoms, and fail to get an accurate diagnosis of their condition.

Undiagnosed and untreated, lung disease can progress rapidly — often having a very negative effect on the life of the affected person and those around them.

One of the main reasons lung disease goes undiagnosed is because people put up with the symptoms — slight breathlessness, an annoying cough — rather than seeing their doctor. Many attribute their symptoms to "smoker's cough", and consider them normal.

One of the most common forms of lung disease is COPD, an umbrella term for conditions including bronchitis and emphysema. It is estimated that 3.6 million people in the UK have it, and, of these, 2.7 million people have yet to be properly diagnosed.

Worryingly, 89 per cent of people in the UK have never heard of COPD, and remain unaware of the importance of quick and accurate diagnosis — something that is important for all types of disease.

"When diagnosed early, patients can receive appropriate treatment which can significantly improve their quality of life, health and well-being," said Emrys Evans, BLF Wales chairman.

Charity chief Chris Mulholland said: "This year, we will be campaigning hard for significant improvements to services for people with lung disease. People who have problems with their lungs have been waiting far too long. We want 2009 to be the year when they are made a national priority."

BLF Wales's second goal is better services, including full pulmonary rehabilitation services available to all sufferers.

Pulmonary rehabilitation courses are carefully designed programmes that help sufferers get active and stay in control of their condition. They can then remain at home, and are less likely to have to go into hospital.

Services are not provided everywhere in Wales, but in 2009 the charity is after major advances to give everyone who would benefit from attending a course the chance to do so.

Information about Breathe Easy is available on 01792 455764. The helpline number is 08458 505020. BLF Wales is also planning to involve more people in its already popular PenPals scheme, for people with lung disease and their carers. Information is available from Louise Daintrey at the British Lung Foundation head office on 020 7688 5555.

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