Health & happiness
KIM’S STORY Capital pains The Big Smoke has left life… Kim gasping for her
Sitting in a meeting at work, I tried desperately to focus on taking notes.
But a crackling noise, like radio static, rattled inside my chest. It felt like someone was tickling my lungs.
I tried desperately to hold it in, but couldn’t any longer.
‘Sorry!’ I gasped, erupting into coughs.
It was 2014, and I’d recently moved from Aberdeen to London to work as a newspaper marketing exec. But the Big Smoke was living up to its name.
The effort of getting dressed and doing my make-up for work felt like running a marathon. I’d arrive at my desk weak and exhausted. I used to love going to the gym and working out. Now, I felt like an OAP. Diagnosed with asthma as a baby, I’d happily grown out of it. And while I’d suffered chest infections as a child, doctors had told my mum, Geraldine, that it was down to ‘weak glands’. Fed up of taking so many sick days from my job, I saw my GP. ‘Your oxygen saturation levels are low,’ he said.
He gave me a nebuliser to inhale medication, but still my levels were low. Not knowing what was wrong with me was terrifying. A few weeks later, at Guys & St Thomas’s Hospital, a respiratory specialist carried out CT scans and X-rays on my chest.
‘There are a lot of obstructions on your lungs, but we aren’t sure why,’ he told me.
Meanwhile, I was constantly coughing to try to shift mucus and felt breathless all the time.
I was prescribed antibiotics, which didn’t work, and became exhausted by simple tasks like going to Pret for a sandwich.
Over the next two years, I was hospitalised 11 times!
It was so frustrating.
I was trying to get on with my life in London, but all I was doing in the evenings was googling what the hell was wrong with me.
‘Move back home,’ Mum and my dad, William, pleaded.
At the end of my tether, I reluctantly agreed, moving back to Scotland in February 2016.
There, I was referred to the chest clinic at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Doctors ran blood tests and spirometry tests, which measured how much air I could breathe out in a forced breath.
At my second meeting with the specialist, I finally had an answer.
‘You have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,’ he revealed.
COPD is an irreversible, progressive lung disease. I also had emphysema and bronchiectasis.
He explained it was rare that someone so young, who doesn’t go near the fags, should have it.
My lungs were black, like those of a 60-year-old smoker, and they only had 30 per cent function.
Pardon the pun, but it was hard to take in.
I felt like I’d been handed a death sentence. The doctors supposed the London pollution had aggravated my already weak lungs.
I recently had to go back there for work, still as a marketing exec, for a week, and ended up coughing up blood for a fortnight!
Now I visit a ‘salt cave’ every few days. The walls are caked in salt crystals, which fill the air and help disperse the mucus and prevent infections.
My oxygen levels are fine at the moment, but if I go out on a windy day without my face mask I could end up in hospital.
There’s no cure for COPD, but with the help of inhalers, nebulisers and preventative antibiotics, I’ve finally got control of it.
That’s a breath of fresh air.
Kim Lam, 31, Aberdeen
Read Kim’s blog at lungevity.blog
I was in hospital 11 times in two years
The air in the ‘salt cave’ helps my condition I have to use a nebuliser to inhale medication