Carol's 10 years of helpline support
On her 10th anniversary of joining the team, Carol looks back on her BLF journey.
It's 10 years since I first stepped through the door at the British Lung Foundation. The helpline was a few months from opening and I was excited to be here from the very beginning.
At that time, the launch of the helpline was just a trial to see if it would be a useful way of sharing information. The BLF was formed in 1985 but had never offered direct help and support in this way before, so it was really exciting to be involved in such a huge step forward for the charity.
There wasn't a way for people with lung conditions to get advice and support from anybody but their own doctor or nurse, and we wanted to see if our helpline could help them, but didn't really know what sort of calls we'd get - if any! Ten years - and thousands of calls - later we're still here and have helped so many people in so many ways.
I still remember waiting for the first call to come in. It was so nerve-racking because this was all new to me. I already had 10 years experience working on other helplines, but the world of lungs was unexplored territory - I had just 3 months to learn as much as possible about lung health, and the practical and emotional issues of living with a lung condition.
But by speaking to lots of nurses, doctors and consultants (including Jan, a nurse who now works with us on the helpline) I was able to prepare myself for the challenge.
Back in those days there was just myself, respiratory nurse Pinky, and our manager Wendy. Now, because so many people value the support we offer, there are 20 of us including 4 specialist respiratory nurses.
People with specific medical questions about lung health can talk to one of our nurses. The rest of team can speak to people about what benefits they’re entitled to; worries about asbestos, smoking and other risks; as well as any other questions about living with a lung condition.
Thousands of people have been in touch over the years - and we've had some really strange requests. One person asked me to help them with their wheelie bin, and another wanted me to fix their TV. Obviously I wasn't able to do any of those, but I was happy to signpost them to their local council or television repair shop.
Someone asked me to think about the people I've helped over the years and if there's any one person who has really touched me. It's really hard to pick out one story as there are so many people who I've really helped change for the better.
But although I've helped so many people, it's the ones who say things like "thanks for listening to me" or "I'm really glad I called" that touch me the most, as you can tell just how much it means to them.
The BLF helpline is a big part of my life. Having a human voice at the end of the phone to support and empower people to take control of their condition, rather than the condition taking control of them, is something I'm incredibly proud to be a part of.
I've seen us go from strength-to-strength and grow so much that we had to move into a new office earlier this year. Thanks to your support, we're able to help more people living with lung conditions than ever before. I can't wait to see how our journey continues.
If you need information, advice or someone to chat to about your lung condition, you can speak Carol or one of the nurses on our helpline by calling 03000 030 555, Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. You can help us continue to support people with lung conditions on the helpline by making a donation today.