Thursday, August 23, 2007

20.8.07: The day after

11.45 am:
Conquest Hospital, St. Leonards

I am meeting respiratory physiologist Judy Russell for lung function tests. I notice Hastings Urban Bikes posters in the waiting room; HUB is part-funded by the local primary care trust. And when Judy arrives, she has a nasty graze on her chin following a fall from her bike earlier this morning.

My lung function tests are back to 40% of what is predicted for my age and height. This is a relief as my previous test at Folkestone registered a mere 33%. And at the end of the journey my daily medication has been reduced by half.

Earlier in the year I photographed Judy's clinical space and the smoking aliens she keeps there. The aliens are still there. They make me laugh but there's no getting away from it: smoking is the main cause of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. What is not so well known is that susceptibility to lung disease varies hugely. There's no proven way of telling who will succumb. Funds for research are vital; despite being one of the major killers, lung disease receives a disproportionately low amount of research funding.

The HUB posters make the point that exercise is essential for retaining mobility. Without exercising, health deteriorates quickly.

Pulmonary rehabilitation teaches COPD patients ways of exercising in order to maximize health. It should be available on the NHS throughout the UK. Instead it is only provided on a patchy and ad hoc basis. So it often has to be up to us, the patients, to do the best we can to keep moving, with the advice of our GPs, consultants and respiratory nurses.