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I have COPD - that means I can help

At first, Angela had her doubts about pulmonary rehab. Now she's a volunteer 'buddy', helping others get as much out of it as she did. 

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After I was diagnosed with COPD, I was invited to attend pulmonary rehab, a class that combines exercise with advice about managing lung conditions.

But I was really unsure about my first session. I suffer from panic and anxiety attacks, so it was quite a big deal for me to even turn up.

To begin with, I was very reluctant. I didn’t think it would work.

But after a few classes, my confidence started to grow. I felt less anxious about walking up hills, and I became much fitter! And the lovely staff taught me lots about COPD, which I really didn’t know anything about at all before.

I advanced to such a good stage that Leanne, who is the manager of the group, asked me to become a volunteer 'buddy'.

Now I’m there all the time. It's so rewarding.

I have COPD - that means I can help

The team are very good, and they have experience of looking after people. And because I've got a lung condition, it means I can offer more personal support to other people in the group. They like confiding in me.

They ask me questions - things like, “is it going to help?" I tell them my story, of how I felt when I started, compared to now!

I know it can be difficult learning how to use the equipment, so I enjoy showing them how. I’m often in the gym anyway for myself, so they see me and come over to say hello. It’s great!

A lot of people I chat to tell me they feel like giving up after the 6 weeks, or even during the course! But I explain to them how much it benefited me.

And they really listen. 

It's so positive

Since I started mentoring people, more and more are choosing to finish the course and go on to a follow up course of 12 weeks. They’re not giving up.

It’s so positive!

And since Bristol Community Health started the 'buddy' system, I've heard more than half of people are staying on the course, which is amazing. 

The real difference pulmonary rehab can make

When you hear from other people who’ve got the same thing, it helps you realise you’re not alone.

Sometimes you can feel very lonely when you have a lung condition.

You always think it’s just you, and life isn’t the same anymore. But when you hear from other people who’ve got the same thing, it helps you realise you’re not alone.

Being a buddy is a win-win situation, really. The other people on the course really appreciate it, and I get to make new friends.  

If they have a problem, they can talk to me. And I understand how difficult it can be for them.

I’m sad now when they all finish their 6 week courses now - honestly! 

But more often than not I’ll see them in the gym again, and we'll have a nice chat over a coffee. 

Angela volunteers as a ‘Buddy’ for Bristol Community Health which runs pulmonary rehabilitation classes around Bristol.

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5 May 2016