Patient Story – Rosemarie

Rosemarie is 76 and a widow who lives in Shepton Mallet in Somerset. She lives next door to her daughter and two grandsons but doesn’t like to take advantage of them living so close and she likes to be as independent as possible. She was first diagnosed with COPD 15 years ago, and with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) 20 years ago.

She had been a heavy smoker and although she gave up smoking before COPD was diagnosed, the damage had already been done to her lungs and she was experiencing extreme breathlessness. She found it a struggle to do anything as she was unable to breathe when doing even simple tasks.

Rosemarie had been using a CPAP machine for her OSA but five years ago, it was suggested that she go onto HMV. Rosemarie was given a BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) machine to treat her COPD and to regulate her breathing at night.

The BiPAP machine has two pressure settings: the prescribed pressure for inhalation (ipap), and a lower pressure for exhalation (epap). The dual settings allow the patient to get more air in and out of their lungs and can be particularly helpful for people, like Rosemarie, with COPD.

To begin with, Rosemarie struggled with the two different pressures. She found it hard to get used to breathing with the machine and felt light-headed. However, with the help of the HMV team and by working with her respiratory physiotherapists, she has adapted to the new machine.

Rosemarie said: “The most significant difference is that I’m now awake all day and feel alert, rather than sleepy which is what I felt all the time before.

“My message to anyone who is advised to go onto HMV is that it is important that you follow the advice and wear the mask. It takes some getting used to but persevere and don’t be embarrassed about using it. It has saved my life.”

Rosemarie advises that it is likely to take time to get used to the straps on the mask. She has a full face mask as she found it difficult to breathe through her nose to use a nasal mask. To begin with, the straps might rub but she advises using the sponges provided by the hospital to protect your skin, particularly on the nose and face.

Before her husband died, he and Rosemarie would go away and take the machine with them. Her tip here is to always take an extension lead as the plugs are rarely close enough and also an adapter if you’re going abroad.

Rosemarie concluded: “It’s important to use the machine every night, even if you don’t use it all night. So if you’re going away for the night, you need to take it with you.

“If you struggle to begin with, it is important to keep trying until you get used to it. It may literally save your life.”