Limited by COPD, Bob and Cliff face daily challenges due to living with this condition. The pandemic has only worsened their struggle, as the fear of COVID-19 lead to strict lockdowns and precautions. The hope for a brighter and better future fuels their limited energy.
“Living with COPD severely limits me”, says Bob, 65, who was officially diagnosed with COPD in 1995. Bob is one of hundreds of British COPD patients who have volunteered to participate in an ongoing trial through the British Research Panel. He is hoping that his health improves, as COPD severely limits his everyday life. “I have an 11-year-old son who I want to play football with and go on long walks with, but it’s just not possible.”
Cliff, 71, also volunteered for the COPD trial. His COPD diagnosis also impacts his daily life, making even the small tasks burdensome. “I went to the hospital the other week for a scan where the clinics and scanners are on opposite sides of the hospital. I had to request somebody wheel me around in a wheelchair, as I simply couldn’t manage it on my feet! Being able to do things without getting out of breath is the biggest challenge for me.”
Bob and Cliff are far from being the only people suffering from COPD. It is estimated that there are currently more than 3 million people living with COPD in the UK, of which only about 900,000 have been diagnosed. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is the second most common lung disease in the UK and is estimated to cause 25,000 deaths each year.
Causing obstructed airflow to the lungs, difficulties breathing, frequent respiratory infections and chronic coughing, the prevalence of COPD is on the rise. According to the British Lung Foundation COPD diagnoses have increased by 27% in the last decade.
A tough 15 months for COPD patients
With the arrival of coronavirus, those living with COPD were placed in the ‘vulnerable’ category and were advised to stay strictly at home when lockdown was introduced on the 23rd March 2020. Fear of the unknown lead to isolation for many and created drastic changes in many patient’s lifestyles.
“We went into lockdown right away, for two reasons,” Bob tells us. “One being my COPD and the other for my wife’s lung cancer.”
As lockdown measures legally came into force on the 26th March, the future was uncertain for the UK. Periods of loosened restrictions brought little change for those with COPD as they continued to shield from the virus.
“It considerably affected my life. We used to visit the supermarket three times a week and now that was gone. That was our primary source of exercise, so removing this had a knock-on effect on my health and a lot of other things,” Cliff tells us. “We remained home for months and just received deliveries.”
Over a year on, vaccines have brought a sense of relief, however the constant arrival of new mutations leaves many COPD patients feeling uneasy.
“I was fearful of COVID-19 and it significantly changed the way I live my life. I’ve now got to a stage where I tell myself that I’m just going to live my life and what will come, will come,” Bob concludes.
The hope for a cure
There is currently no cure for COPD and it is common for the disease to be diagnosed late and once it has advanced. Common treatments are bronchodilators that come in the form of inhalers which help to relax the muscles in the airways and alleviate symptoms. Despite this, living with COPD is still a challenge and can make simple tasks problematic.
“My treatments are effective until my COPD progresses. I usually get put on a different medication until it worsens again. I feel as though I only ever have short term improvements with my COPD until it becomes difficult again,” explains Bob. “I also try alternative remedies to try to counteract some of the worst effects of my condition such as congestion.”
The British Lung Foundation has currently spent over £3 million on all COPD research projects, but there is certainly a demand for more breakthroughs. “I don’t know how much research there is, but I definitely think that there are genetic elements that could be explored.” Cliff told us.
At the British Research Panel, we are currently focusing on finding participants for a COPD trial that will investigate the effectiveness of a treatment in reducing the risk of exacerbations. The trial will be taking place in multiple locations across the UK, so if you are interested in participating, click on the link to our questionnaire at the end of this article!
Link to questionnaire: https://bit.ly/3c14wu3