This month, in the year 2019, marks my 31st anniversary of when I was first diagnosed with a stage one COPD. Wow! That is a long time ago and a lot has happened since that time. However, despite that original COPD diagnosis, I never quit smoking until I was "leaning over the edge of death," in 2012. But my worst mistake was not taking seriously and ignoring the diagnosis of stage one COPD in 1988. There is no doubt that since that time I have paid the consequences for that blunder.
In 2001, I was a prison officer, and my symptoms went from bad to worse. The cell block I was working caught fire. Two days earlier, I sent all the cell block's fire safety equipment into maintenance to be upgraded. I had failed to ask for replacement gear. So, during the midst of the fire, when the time approached that my electronic emergency control panel would no longer open cell doors, I had a choice to make. Was I going to leave the inmates behind locked doors down there to suffocate? Or was I going to put myself at risk of a smoke inhalation and go down those smoke-filled cell blocks and manually key inmates out from behind their cell doors? I chose the latter. And that was real bad for me. My smoke inhalation was classified as toxic because a lot of styrofoam had burned in the fire. Breathing this poison in was comparable to "glue on the lungs". The new prognosis was, what I expected it to be; "dreadful". The state pulmonologists informed me that most likely I could be treated for my toxic inhalation, but, by 2007, there would be no more that could be done for me.
By 2008, even though I retired of my own volition, I was in bad shape. But I kept smoking cigarettes and continued to have a less than healthy diet. In 2012, it all came crashing down. No one, not my doctors, my family, friends, and or even myself, expected me to live. But, I did. And boy did I ever change my ways.
In closing, what do all of my words say? Never give up no matter how bleak your circumstances appear to be because, for some reason or another, many times a "window of opportunity" opens up for us. Take advantage of it, because even though it's a fight to stay alive, life is still wonderful. Hope everyone finds ways and means to live more comfortably with COPD.
First published: December 9, 2019
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