Patient Story – Patience

Patience (68) is originally from Kent but now lives in Blyth, Northumberland and is treated by the team in Newcastle at the Royal Victoria Infirmary. She was diagnosed with COPD and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) in 2011. She had been experiencing chronic shortage of breath for several weeks and was struggling to walk any distance, but she put it down to smoking. However, the breathlessness got progressively worse, so she went to her GP who diagnosed hypoxaemia (low concentration of oxygen in the blood) and sent Patience straight into hospital where she was put onto a ventilator.

Following a referral to St Thomas’s Lane Fox unit, tests were carried out which found that Patience had COPD–OSA overlap syndrome. At this point, she was given a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to treat her OSA and control her COPD symptoms. She was also prescribed a combined inhaler, Seretide to reduce exacerbations and control her COPD symptoms.

Before her diagnosis, Patience had struggled to stay asleep at night – she’d fall asleep in the evening watching television or in the middle of a conversation, and then have disturbed sleep at night, waking up every few hours. As a result, she felt lethargic a lot of the time and when she struggled to breath, she found herself having horrible panic attacks.

However, within a week of leaving the hospital, her breathing was 100% better. She noticed a difference in what she was able to do almost immediately. Daily activities, such as climbing the stairs or walking to her granddaughter’s house, became possible again.

Patience says,

“My life is 100% better, I don’t have big coughing fits in the morning, my oxygen levels are now over 90% and I sleep 6-8 hours each night without constantly waking up. Plus my husband sleeps better as well because he’s not kept awake by my snoring! We’ve even been on holiday several times, taking the machine with us. It’s very portable and easy to carry.

“The mask feels funny at first, but you soon get used to it. I had a nasal mask when I first started but found this uncomfortable, so I now use a full mask face which I find much better. Don’t ever take my mask away! I love it!”

Patience is keen for others to understand that the machine is very easy to use and that it makes life better. It’s allowed her to have a relatively normal life and to enjoy her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Since her diagnosis ten years ago, Patience has not been readmitted to hospital. She goes to the local hospital in Blyth for her annual check-ups and if she has a bad spell she’s prescribed anti-biotics and steroids, after which she feels “as right as rain again”.

Patience concluded: “Don’t be scared of the machine. If you have any problems, you can call the hospital and can get help. They are at the end of the phone and will talk you through the process if you’re worried. Never feel anxious about using the machine. Without it, I honestly don’t think I’d still be here”.