Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease that affects the effectiveness of your lungs. According to David Heitz’s article on Healthline, more than 24 million Americans are afflicted with COPD. Traditionally caused by smoking, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
My Nana suffers from COPD. She smoked cigarettes her entire adult life. She finally quit smoking when she was diagnosed with COPD, although smoking’s damage to her lungs was almost complete. Now 77 years old, her lungs can’t get enough air to filter through her body. Common symptoms of COPD are chronic cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Although my Nana does experience each of those symptoms occasionally, her biggest are of concern is with fatigue.
My family recently took a road trip to visit my Nana and other family near the Ozarks in Missouri. My aunt and 21 year old cousin took us antique shopping and drove us around to visit all the local sites and hangouts. However, we had to frequently stop to accommodate my Nana, whose lungs just couldn’t keep up with the constant activity. The effort for her to do something as simple as breathing-something the rest of us all took for granted-was too much. She missed a lot of our activities because she had to return home to rest. Although she would never complain, our trips to town wore her out. She was happiest back at home in her Lazy Boy recliner, bent slightly forward, relaxing as she watched her favorite television show.
During the cold winter of 2014 my Nana worried about living alone in a trailer in the freezing temperatures. To deal with her stress and anxiety, she started smoking again. My family tried to rationalize with her, but in her 77 year old mind her logic was sound. “What are they going to do, kill me?” She just wanted a little comfort, and for whatever reason the indulgence of cigarettes gives her that.
Shortly thereafter my mom received a frantic telephone call that ambulances were at my Nana’s house. My Nana called the squad because she couldn’t breathe and was scared by the tight pressure in her chest. The ambulance took her to the emergency room. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and was admitted in the hospital for a few days. At the hospital she was fed, fussed over, and kept warm and safe during the last of 2014’s bitter winter storms.
My Nana is now back at home, enjoying her simple pleasures of television and cigarettes. Yes, the symptoms of COPD have hampered her lifestyle and cause her to stay indoors more, never far from a glass of water or her comfortable chair. But the damage smoking caused is already done and there is nothing she can do to fix that. In her mind, she might as well enjoy the remaining days she has left. I hope her days are many, but I truly hope no matter how much time she has left that she does enjoy them to her fullest ability. I think that’s all anyone can ask of life.