I wrote this in 2008.
I had not been sick that year with a cold, flu or a chest infection. Considering that I have severe COPD that is quite a revelation. So being an analytical type of person I set out to figure out why.
Upon checking my records for the winter of 2006/07, I came up with some very interesting information. At that time I was enrolled in a rehab follow up program being run in our local community. I also began to get sick closer to the end of the program and was missing rehab days at an alarming rate.
It had not been that noticeable to me at the time, for my illness was a full time occupation. Naturally, when you get under the weather and start to struggle with shortness of breath (SOB), there is the tendency to blame it on the COPD. There were many days of confusion and panic on my part because of my lack of education of COPD.
Thanks to the rehab program, the therapists and all staff concerned, all that had changed to the point where I learned enough to know how better to live with my impairment; also how to negotiate my way around most of my minor emergencies.
It was actually right at the end of the program and we had started the follow up exercise drop-in stage, that the sick routine became obvious. A pattern had started to form; I would attend the drop in, and three days later I would get sick either with a cold or a chest infection. This of course prompted my absence from rehab and then some recovery time to get better and strong enough to resume my program activities.
The problem is when a person has ailments like these it’s bad enough, even for a normal person. When that person suffers with severe COPD, then it can get really bad and one has to be very aware. The reason for this is, as a COPD sufferer the immune system is greatly compromised, thus putting that patient at a far greater risk to whatever else is floating around. Any simple illness can land a COPD patient in hospital in a hurry, for most types of exacerbations will do that to you. A lot of hospitalizations usually come in the form of severe infection, SOB, respiratory failure and/or pneumonia.
After doing an evaluation of all my own circumstances, I reached this conclusion. ~ During the course of doing exercise workouts in the rehab gym, one couldn’t help but notice the volume of patients attending drop-in. This I concluded made it extremely difficult for rehab staff to stay on top of the apparatus hygiene during program in progress use. Patients were working their routines in rotating ten minute increments. As soon as one machine became vacant, another patient stepped in for their 10 minute workout. It would follow that whatever germs were present on the equipment, these could be passed onto the next person, purely by using the same machine without it being sanitized between each use. Of course, if at some point the patient puts their hand to their face the rest is elementary; germs are passed on, and some people get sick. Maybe my being a little run down, around that time, contributed to why I got sick so frequently that year.
It is important for anyone who has COPD to remember that their immune system is not like that of a well person. Because of the illness and the drugs they have to take, their immune system is greatly compromised; as such, they are at greater risk of catching germs and suffer more than one could imagine as a result.
It is a COPD patient best interest to keep up with exercising regularly as well as eating properly and sensibly. Practice your purse lip breathing constantly, this is important.
Having a few small weights, 3lb bar bells, thera-bands and religiously keeping up with a rehab workout routine at home is a must. Lots of walking certainly helps to keep you in shape. The affect of all this can slow down the progress of COPD, but you have to be relentless in your desire to want to live, vigorously applying yourself accordingly.
I did not like being away from the gym and the expertise of my PT, also the benefit of the better workout that I could achieve with the machines, but the risk for me was too great. I feel that a patient has to assume some of the responsibility of looking out for their health and do what they can to try and protect themselves from germs and getting ill. I did consider taking extra precautions, such as wearing a mask if necessary and even surgical gloves. Perhaps concentrate more on what I handle, as well as keeping my hands from my face. Maybe I could make this work and stay germ/sickness free for the most part. Having COPD is no game, for it is after all, your life that is at stake.
Eric Valentine Jan 24/08 ©