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Ann

Age at interview: 68
Brief Outline:

Ann was fit for nearly 50 years and the onset of illness came as a shock. She was diagnosed with type II diabetes and then Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and has had a ‘mini heart attack’. She found it difficult to match diabetes management with her lifestyle.

Background:

Ann is married and a retired training officer. Ethnic Background: White British.

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When Ann was diagnosed with diabetes, the staff “appeared panic stricken”, which exacerbated the shock of the diagnosis: “it put the wind up me to a terrible extent”. She liked socialising and diabetes did not fit in with her lifestyle, never mind the medical aspects, such as dealing with needles which left her with bruises. Using insulin had made her gain weight.

One of the main issues for Ann was that the medical recommendation to take exercise did not fit in with her lifestyle and personal (or family) history:
“Also I wasn’t all that keen on taking exercise. I’m never a sporty person, mainly because I was big, bigger than your average, not huge, but bigger than your average and I didn’t do much sport. I didn’t come from a sporting family either, although neither of my parents were large in any way. So the thought of having to exercise was very, very difficult. I was leading such a busy lifestyle as well that the time of putting aside an hour or whatever it was to do exercise, which left me puffed and sweaty and didn’t want do it, so that was really, really difficult. In fact, that was the worst part and they kept saying to me, ‘You must do more exercise because your exercise will burn up your calories.’ Which makes sense in your head, but when it comes to doing it in your body, that’s different. But it’s taken an awful long time but I have eventually decided, you know, I’ve got to get a grip.”

Ann feels well looked after by health professionals, although she describes a disagreement with a GP over “asthma”, which eventually led to a diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). She has realised that she needs more of an awareness of how to ‘read’ her own body, partly following health advice from a health professional after a “mini heart attack.” 

Ann gets medical information from personal contacts who are nurses and other health workers. She attends a Breathe Easy group and has been on a pulmonary rehabilitation course which she found very useful. However, she finds it “frightening” reading about the potential side effects of medications.

 

Ann was sure that her breathlessness was not caused by asthma despite her GP being adamant that it was. She was later diagnosed with COPD.

Ann was sure that her breathlessness was not caused by asthma despite her GP being adamant that it was. She was later diagnosed with COPD.

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The other thing is the COPD. That was a bit of a different thing because I had to get into a bit of an argument with my GP at the time, who’s now retired, and she said to me, “You’ve got asthma.” So I said, “No, I haven’t.” “Yes, you’ve got asthma and I want you to take these inhalers.” So I had a brown inhaler and a blue inhaler and I did as I was told and I used them for oh, about a month and I thought, “It’s not making one iota of difference. I know I haven’t got asthma. I’ve got friends who have asthma and I’ve seen them and the way that they can’t breathe and they’re panting and they’re having these terrible asthma attacks, which you can die from, and I’m nothing like that. Why won’t my doctor listen to me?” I’m fully aware of my body now because I was told a long time ago, when I’d had a mini heart attack, which isn’t, no evidence of it since, I’ve been fine, ‘listen to your body’ and that was the best advice I could ever have had, because you become very aware of your body and what’s not right, even if you can’t specify what isn’t right, you know that there’s something not right. 

So I knew that I had not got asthma and it was nearly three years before I, I wouldn’t say bullied my doctor, but I said “It’s not asthma. It’s got to be something else.” So eventually, they discovered or decided that it was COPD. Apparently, they’re very, very closely related, the two. So never having heard of COPD there was quite a learning curve to find out what had gone wrong here and again, I was given tablets and inhalers and so on and, consequently, felt much better, because before then I was finding I wasn’t able to go upstairs. I wasn’t able to walk great distances and I certainly couldn’t walk fast and that was not a good thing. In fact, sometimes I got so slow that I had to stop after about twenty paces. At my time of life, I think I was just about fifty then, I thought, “Well, this is not right. I have to get something done about it.” 
 

After Ann’s diagnosis was changed from asthma to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) she was given tablets and inhalers and felt much better.

After Ann’s diagnosis was changed from asthma to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) she was given tablets and inhalers and felt much better.

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So eventually, they discovered or decided that it was COPD. Apparently, they’re very, very closely related, the two. So never having heard of COPD there was quite a learning curve to find out what had gone wrong here and again, I was given tablets and inhalers and so on and, consequently, felt much better because before then I was finding I wasn’t able to go upstairs. I wasn’t able to walk great distances and I certainly couldn’t walk fast and that was not a good thing. In fact, sometimes I got so slow that I had to stop after about twenty paces. At my time of life, I think I was just about fifty then, I thought, “Well, this is not right. I have to get something done about it.” 

So anyway it was improved greatly by the inhalers, wonderful, and I toddled along quite well looking after myself and doing everything I should, and life got much better and I was back to normal, you know, hundred and ten per cent every day. 
 

Ann feels lucky that she is well cared for with regard to her Type II Diabetes. However, she feels that services will become more stretched and people need to help themselves as much as they can.

Ann feels lucky that she is well cared for with regard to her Type II Diabetes. However, she feels that services will become more stretched and people need to help themselves as much as they can.

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So that’s the feet and the eyes and the diet and they really take care of me very well, and monitor me very closely and I feel very lucky, particularly in view of the reports that are going around recently that there are so many of us diabetics type two, and possibly the facilities are going to be stretched terribly in in the coming years. So it’s really down to you to do the best you can for yourself and to go and get help as much as you can as well, because if they point you in the right direction then, okay, go for it, yeah.
 

Ann was referred on a course that involved being taught exercises and being given dietary advice. She also attends a Breathe Easy group and went to a seminar at her local GP surgery.

Ann was referred on a course that involved being taught exercises and being given dietary advice. She also attends a Breathe Easy group and went to a seminar at her local GP surgery.

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I was recommended to go on pulmonary rehabilitation courses and that involved doing exercises and being informed of what to eat and what to do in order to look after, the chest this is, and to teach you how to do exercises. Because several people in the class didn’t even move from their chairs, possibly because their lung conditions were so bad but they were taught ways that they could exercise themselves that they’d never realised before. And we were also given time to go to a gym, a local gym. Other people in my Breathe Easy group went to the hospital gym which was local to them, but I live fifteen miles away from that particular hospital so we were allowed to use the local gym Tuesday mornings. And we did it for six weeks, and you took a test by running around a set of chairs for so long to start with, and they measure how long it took and how long it took to get your breath back and things like that. And at the end of the course, when you’d worked on all these gym machines and so on, they did the same run around business to see if you’d improved, and that was good. And then we had one which was a little bit more theory actually held at the GP’s surgery and that was very interesting as well. I didn’t learn a lot more than I knew already but then I’ve been at it for quite a long time before I went onto that, but some people who’d been fairly recently diagnosed, it was very, very useful for them. So the pulmonary rehabilitation was great. So that’s worth having if you ever get the opportunity.
 

Ann’s chest consultant recommended that she join a Breathe Easy group. She has found the group to be excellent and had recommended similar groups to friends and family.

Ann’s chest consultant recommended that she join a Breathe Easy group. She has found the group to be excellent and had recommended similar groups to friends and family.

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And the consultant for my chest, he recommended that I joined something called Breathe Easy and it’s a social club for people with chesticles, like myself, of all types, and some of them are quite a lot worse than I am and have to carry oxygen bottles around with them and so on. They haven’t all got COPD. They’ve got other things as well, well, different things, lung things, bronchiolitis or something is one of them. So meeting them and realising that I’m really not too bad after all was quite good, and also we do lots of things together. We go out for a trip on canals springs to mind from last year. They’re going to an arboretum at the beginning of May. They hold Christmas lunches and other lunches at pubs and so forth and it’s quite good and we have lectures from doctors. We have talks by consultants. We have the local respiratory nurse team come in and talk to us, and it’s a monthly group and I’ve recommended it to various friends of mine throughout the country, who have problems with their chests and said, you know, “Find a branch near you because they’re really, really good.” And ours is excellent. I was there yesterday and we were doing a games afternoon. It was being run by Age Concern or Age UK, as they call themselves now, and we were all doing curling and skittles and, [coughs] excuse me, [coughs] on a Wii machine balancing on tightropes and things like that. It was really good fun, so if you get the opportunity to go to one of these clubs it would be really good for you.
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