Often COPD is regarded as a “smoker’s disease”, with most of the population believing that those with COPD knowingly engaged in risky behavior that resulted in their illness. It’s not just the general population that holds this belief, it is often physicians as well. It’s this problem that led to our next Share Your Story participant, Carol Anderson, to have undiagnosed COPD for more than a decade even after visiting 15 to 20 different doctors.Unfortunately, Carol contracted Legionnaire’s disease in 1990. This disease is a very severe form of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria. It isn’t spread from person to person but instead it is generally transmitted by breathing in mist from water that contains the bacteria. It can be passed along in the steam from hot tubs or showers, or in air conditioning vapor in buildings. It gets its name from the initial outbreak of the disease that occurred in a Philadelphia hotel where the Pennsylvania American Legion was holding its convention in 1976. Symptoms resemble a severe case of the flu with fever, body aches, and a cough.
Carol's COPD Story
Carol did recover from the bacterial infection but she realized that her lungs weren’t quite as strong as they used to be. As time went on, her breathing became increasingly labored. It was difficult for her to even walk short distances across a parking lot or climb just one flight of stairs. Carol saw many doctors over the years who couldn’t find out what was wrong with her and never considered COPD because she wasn’t a smoker. She heard several suggestions including, she should lose weight to, she had anxiety and was hyperventilating, to it was all psychological.
After doing her own research on her symptoms she believed that she had COPD but her doctor at the time refused to consider it because in his words, “You have a 0% chance of getting COPD because you have never smoked.” Ten years after she began losing respiratory function, she finally found a doctor that listened to her suspicions and eventually discovered that she did in fact have COPD and put her on the bronchial dilator, Cymbicort and bromide inhaler, Atrovent.
Thankfully Carol has been diagnosed now but missed out on 10 years of what would have been beneficial respiratory therapy. Early diagnosis is key to slowing the progression of the disease and maintaining respiratory health. With proper care there isn’t any reason that someone with COPD can’t go on to live a normal life, doing all the things they enjoy doing as long as they are careful to avoid exacerbation triggers and stick to the regimen that their physician and respiratory therapists have put them on.
How a Portable Oxygen Concentrator Enhanced Carol's
One of the most challenging things to do with COPD is travel. Most airlines no longer allow oxygen canisters on board. On a road trip canisters can be dangerous as well. Depending on your dosage, each canister may only last an hour so carrying enough tanks to last for a lengthy drive could be deadly even in a slight fender bender. Plugging a concentrator into the car cigarette lighter is much safer, and obviously much less hassle.
Carol lives in California and it was difficult to visit her family in Phoenix with her heavy tanks, but she was recently able to take her new concentrator for an overdue visit. Carol said, “Last time I went to visit my family in Phoenix, I had to take 14 O2 bottles for the trip! With my EverGo Portable Oxygen Concentrator, I can simply take a suitcase, my concentrator, and fly to Phoenix on a plane! I don’t have to make the nine hour drive and keep changing O2 bottles. What a relief! I would like to thank everyone at 1st Class Medical for all their help and wonderful assistance!”
Happy travels, Carol and thank you so much for Sharing Your Story.