Save Your Breath roadshow on tour

RTÉ newscaster Eileen Dunne and Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin look on as Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer and Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher take spirometry tests at the launch of the Save Your Breath COPD awareness campaign.

His job means he’s deeply immersed in the world of sport but his condition prevents active participation.

Michael Drohan, 57, the general manager of Waterford United Football Club, would like to have played far more sport but progressive lung disease meant his next best option was to go behind the scenes.

Diagnosed in 2006 with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), his lungs have been his weak spot all his life.

He weighed just four stone eight lbs at 14 years of age and had very little energy.

“I would have to rest against the banisters halfway to the bathroom. I had a very weak chest in my teens,” Michael says.

In fact he had bad asthma, which seemed to improve as he grew older. He smoked for a while, but not heavily. He played a lot of tennis.

Things started to go downhill in 1992. He was diagnosed with cardio-myopathy (disease of the heart muscle). Osteoporosis (brittle bones) was brought on by heart tablets. This culminated in him having to have a hip replacement but he was given a faulty hip and had another replacement recently. He’s on crutches, wears a mask at night to overcome the problems of sleep apnoea (pauses in breathing), and has diabetes. The COPD lands him in hospital at least once a year, with a chest infection or pneumonia.

But he is upbeat. Married to Lily and a father- of-seven aged from late teens to late 20s, he has plenty to keep him going. Plus he runs a support group in Waterford for people with COPD, focused on keeping people active. He urges people who have an ongoing cough or chest infections and who are left breathless by moderate exercise to get tested for COPD. With COPD the airways of the lungs are constricted making breathing difficult.

Damien Peelo, executive director of COPD Support Ireland, says international research suggests that there are more than 380,000 people living with COPD in Ireland, many of whom have no idea that they have the disease.

As today is World COPD Day, COPD Support Ireland is calling on the HSE to prioritise treatment of the disease in the community through greater access to spirometry testing in general practice — a quick and painless breathing test that diagnoses the disease.

It is also calling for expansion of COPD outreach programmes to all acute hospitals from 15 currently to 35. COPD outreach programmes offer people the opportunity to be treated at home rather than in hospital.

A COPD screening roadshow is visiting locations nationwide and will visit the River Lee Hotel in Cork on Friday, from 11am to 3pm.

In addition to free COPD screening to people over 35 years who are experiencing symptoms of persistent coughing, breathlessness or frequent chest infections, the Save Your Breath roadshow staff will also be on hand to provide quit smoking support, nutrition tips, and exercise, breathing and inhaler technique advice.


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