John's story (COPD)

John Gillies“Hi, I’m John Gillies and I stay on the Isle of Skye where, as you can probably imagine, the fresh island sea air is plentiful. Problem is I can’t get enough of it!

I’m now 57 and was diagnosed with COPD in my early 40s. It’s fair to say that being a heavy smoker and also working part-time in local pubs didn’t help especially at a time when smoking was permitted in public premises. To make matters worse I was employed at the local sawmill. On a daily basis I was struggling to breathe in the lovely Skye air and my life started on a downward spiral. A cycle of daily steroids and all too often antibiotics to clear the almost constant chest infections was the existence I was beginning to lead and it wasn’t good. Something had to change and I had to be the one to do it. The months and years passed and it was the same old me but gradually getting worse. Then, after a strange twist of fate, things eventually changed for the better.

In 2014 I was involved in a serious road accident and suffered life threatening injuries requiring weeks of surgery then rehabilitation in hospital. Afterwards I became a bit of a recluse with little motivation and no real ‘get up and go’. However I was very fortunate to have great family support and with the regular home visits by the local physiotherapist I realised that the initially tiring round of exercises were slowly getting easier.
It was about the same time and because I was progressing so well with my post-accident physiotherapy that my Specialist Respiratory Nurse suggested a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Course. Although sceptical about it at first I decided to give it a go and I’m really glad I did.

After just a few sessions I started to get my self confidence back and and my breathing became so much more under control. I persevered and with great support from my physio and respiratory nurse my health improved significantly and my dependence on pills was reduced by over half.

I completed all of the rehabilitation sessions which actually became something to look forward to on a weekly basis. With a bit of extra professional help I even managed to achieve a huge milestone and finally stop smoking.

At times prior to the pulmonary rehabilitation course I would often struggle for breath and end up panicking which just made matters worse. Now I have learned to control my breathing with exercises 3 or 4 times a day and if I find myself getting out of breath I just seem to automatically slip into my breathing routine. It really has changed my perspective on things.

What I learned on the rehabilitation course has changed how I go about my daily life. It’s turned my life around and I would encourage anyone with a similar debilitating condition to seek professional help.

Yes I still struggle at times; even changing the bedsheets is still an ordeal but I’m in a much better place on my health journey and as they say I’m ‘self-managing’ my condition now. As a result I’m pretty sure I can get more Skye air into my lungs and I am really thankful to everyone who has helped me to get to where I am today.

I’m not finished either; the next challenge is a bit more exercise and lose some weight. I now know what matters to me. What matters to you?