Helping those with respiratory disease breathe easy
October 9, 2017
By Amanda Zirk, Freelancer writer
For decades, respiratory disease has ranked as one of the top five leading causes of death for Canadians.
In the mid-'80s, a respiratory therapist making rounds at the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre (EGCCC) noticed that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients were becoming depressed, losing hope and withdrawing from society.
She, along with Dr. Fred MacDonald and other healthcare providers, established the C.O.L.D. Respiratory Problems Club of Alberta in 1987. The club is a support group for people suffering from COPD, lung infections or asthma, and for their families.
“I joined because my mother had COPD, and respiratory techs were encouraging their patients to attend a meeting,” says John Tyler, club and board member for 30 years. “One day, my mother told me, ‘I need a ride to go and you have asthma, so you better come too.’ So that’s how it started out.”
The board has found that club members’ families are a great resource for gauging a person's well-being. Also, families have shared that they feel a certain level of comfort in seeing a loved one get up and be eager to get out to meetings or events.
At present, there are nearly 200 members, and the club has had a positive impact on many of them. One member figured her life was over when she was put on oxygen. However, a friend invited her to a meeting where she saw others with oxygen tanks and finally realized she wasn’t alone.
“The instant camaraderie and friendly faces were such a welcome respite after years of declining physical and mental health,” says Mike Cunningham, the current president of the club. He got involved while undergoing the respiratory rehab Breathe Easy Program at the EGCCC.
One of the pillars of the club is support, because respiratory issues have been described as “tough to go through,” “taxing” and “scary.”
“We have members who are in the hospital at least twice a year,” states John. These individuals are never forgotten, thanks to a team that keeps in touch with all members on a regular basis.
If someone is found to be ill, the club gets in contact with them, signs a card, buys flowers and organizes personal visits.
“The friendships, the support and the educational information gleaned from the club have been invaluable to help people cope with declining health,” notes Mike.
The C.O.L.D. Club often hosts fundraising events and has raised over $600,000 for the G.F. MacDonald Centre for Lung Health at the EGCCC.