How to Help Friends and Family Understand COPD

We all have our individual lives. In this country and this society, they are usually very busy and oftentimes hectic.

Which is not to say that they’re not fun because they can be for the most part.

Sure – there’s disappointments, and heartaches, but there’s also joy and pleasant surprises.

We anticipate what might be coming down the road in terms of our families, our relationships and our careers.

Sometimes, it all lives up to what we expected and sometimes it catches up with us.

Do friends and family understand?

With COPD, I’m not sure my family and/or my friends know that a lot of all that gets re-arranged or rather, that those of us with COPD find it necessary to re-arrange much of our lives.

I was diagnosed in 2011 on the day of our middle son’s high school graduation. It was June and I’d had a terrible cough for a number of days. NyQuil, DayQuil – nothing was taking care of it. And I could hear all that congestion rattling around my chest.

I called my doctor (I only had 1 then – lol) and she couldn’t see me. My wife took me to the ER and the intern there listened to my chest, sent me for an x-ray, sat down next to the hospital bed and asked me how long did I have COPD?

Everything had changed

For the next few weeks, I’m sure it seemed to my wife, children and to my friends that I was getting “back to normal.” It seemed that way to me as well. And the household returned to its routines.

But what none of us realized was that everything had changed forever.

I made a big mistake.

I was so busy trying to be normal that I didn’t take advantage of the fact that I had the attention of my wife, my daughter, my two sons, and the dozens of families that are part of my family’s life.

I don’t mean to sound dramatic but, with my diagnosis, my life had changed forever and I hadn’t really communicated that to them. And with that, they all returned to their lives (as they should have).

I had become aware that things would be different but, I had not effectively made anyone else aware.

Trying to educate others

That’s changed since 2011.

I’ve taken advantage of articles, blogs, videos and pamphlets to try and educate. It’s been very effective in some situations and not-so-much in others.

“You don’t look like that guy, Dad,” one of the boys will tell me after seeing an older COPD patient at a more precarious stage than mine.

“You’re going to outlive me,” my younger wife by seven years will say when I try to explain something about helping me with a task of some kind that I feel intimidates me or is beyond my capabilities at this point. “Don’t get lazy!” she usually adds.

“We’re going to The Inn at 8,” my buddy would call and say (The Inn being the local watering hole). “No wives!” he would add for emphasis and machismo I guess!

But the last thing I wanted to do after a long, oxygen-draining day was stand at a crowded bar and imbibe.

He gets it now and, to be honest, once in a while I’ll take him up on his offer.

I'm going to schedule a Family COPD Education Night soon – just to get everyone caught up on where my body and spirit is at.

And maybe then after that, we’ll all go down to The Inn – including the wives!

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