Health & hap­pi­ness

KIM’S STORY Cap­i­tal pains The Big Smoke has left life… Kim gasp­ing for her

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Cap­i­tal pains

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

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