Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease,
or COPD, is the nation's fourth-leading killer.
By Chris Henry,
December 10, 2005
Sharon O'Hara of Silverdale smoked for 40 years before the
day her breathing problems became too severe to ignore.
"I crawled across the kitchen floor to get the food to feed my dogs,"
O'Hara said. "That's when I realized my breathing was not getting better."
O'Hara, now 66, was able to kick the cigarette habit, but by then
the damage was done; she had emphysema and other lung problems that
impaired every aspect of her daily living.
Only through educating herself about COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary
Disease) was she able to manage her terrifying shortness of breath and
resume some semblance of the active life she had known.
Education, says O'Hara, is the key to living with COPD, regardless of the
stage to which the disease has progressed.
People with COPD have a rare opportunity to hear from experts about
management and treatment of the syndrome at a seminar, "Living Well with
COPD," 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Swedish Cultural Center
in Seattle. The event, sponsored by the American Lung Association is
free, and is also open to caregivers and family members.
COPD is the fourth-leading killer in the United States (fifth in the
world), and the problem is becoming more widespread. Yet the amount spent
on COPD research and education ranks 17th after other more well
known causes, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and AIDS.
O'Hara believes there is subtle (and not so subtle) discrimination
"The fact that about 80 percent of us smoked (some forms of COPD are
inherited) shouldn't mean we don't deserve up-to-date medical information,
education and research," she said. "When will COPD-ers care enough about
themselves to get fired up, to ask for the same consideration other
O'Hara got her online education about COPD from EFFORTS (Emphysema
Foundation For Our Right to Survive;
her body was telling her not to move to conserve breath, activity
was the key to overcoming her symptoms, she learned.
"Lack of breath decreases physical activity. It becomes a downward
spiral," O'Hara said. "I was literally afraid to move. I was sitting
around waiting to die."
Working with her doctor and using suggestions from the Web site, however,
she developed a regimen that included daily physical exercise. Today she
champions the rights of people with COPD, communicates with EFFORTS'
online support group and is considering starting a local support
"I found out there were ways to help myself," said O'Hara. "I didn't have
to die just because I couldn't breathe."
Learn About COPD
"Living Well With COPD," hosted by the American Lung Association of
Washington will feature experts speaking on management and treatment of
Time: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Date: Dec. 14.
Place: Swedish Cultural Center, 1920 Dexter Avenue North, Seattle.
Cost: Free (includes lunch).
Town Hall Luncheon in Seattle
Register: (206) 441-5100; firstname.lastname@example.org
Info (and to form a carpool): Sharon O'Hara, (360) 337-1454