Patient Story – Gill

Gill is 66 and she has lived in Plymouth for the past 50 years having moved to the city initially to go to college. She has two children, Robert who lives with her and Rosie who lives nearby with her family. Before her retirement, Gill was a teacher in a special needs school.

The family has a history of asthma and Gill has suffered very badly from the condition since childhood. She feels she missed out a lot during her early years at school but when she was nine or 10 years old her parents took her to a hospital in London where she was treated for allergies and by the time she got to secondary school, she was able to enjoy life more, getting very involved with sport and playing hockey at a high level.

While at college she was often very poorly but COPD wasn’t mentioned until she retired. It was diagnosed eight-nine years ago when visiting her daughter Rosie. She was admitted to intensive care in Southampton and COPD diagnosed at this point. Following her transfer back to Plymouth, Gill was admitted to hospital there and so began her journey of living with the condition.

Before being diagnosed, Gill had an active life. She got up early every morning to walk her dogs and to see to her horses, then she’d do a full day’s work and do it all again in the evening. She also fostered children and as a teacher she got involved in lots of outdoor activity, including potholing and abseiling.

The doctor who diagnosed her COPD said she would be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life but Gill was determined that the condition wouldn’t make her a prisoner.

On leaving hospital, it was suggested that physio would help and, while to begin with she could barely pull on a rubber band and couldn’t walk without help, with her family’s support she worked hard and regained her strength to ride her beloved horse once again.

Gill said: “During one of my hospital admissions, it was suggested that I go onto HMV. Like most people, I was quite anxious and self-conscious to begin with. But I was fortunate to speak to another patient on the ward who had started using the treatment and this really helped me.

“I don’t like having anything on my face and I have a problem with anything touching my nose so wearing a mask was a challenge but it was a case of knowing that it would be good for me, so I was determined to make it work.

“Now I wouldn’t be without my machine, or Larry the Lung, as I call it – I definitely see it as a friend not a foe! I no longer wake up coughing, my lungs are clear and I don’t feel congested. My family are very good at giving me physio and this, together with HMV, has been my lifesaver. I wouldn’t be here today without it.

“Whenever I feel poorly, I spend some time on Larry and it takes away the stress and pain of trying to breath.  I also use it at night and find I sleep much better with Larry than on the occasional night when I fall asleep on my own.”

Gill’s daughter Rosie concluded: “I have worked as a nurse in respiratory for a long time and have seen how HMV acts as a resurrector for people who are desperately ill.  It was difficult to accept that Mum needed NIV but having seen the quality of life it has given her and knowing what she would have missed out on if she hadn’t gone onto the treatment, it really is a lifesaver.”