1 The Journey to Diagnosis

Section 1: The journey to Diagnosis

Meet the COPDers

This book is about real people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (or COPD for short). It tells their journeys from diagnosis through the stages of the disease . To help tell their stories we have created fictional characters who will pop up throughout the book. They are based on the experiences of many people we have met and cared for but they are not real people. They do though, represent the real questions, concerns, ups and downs experienced by COPDers and their carers everywhere.

Jean & Bob

Jean and Bob

Jean and Bob

Jean, a lady of 62, works part time as a dinner lady in a school, although she finds that keeping on working is becoming harder and harder. Her husband, Bob, is fit and well, working full-time in a council facility. They have three daughters and four grandchildren.

Debra & Judy

Debra and Judy

Debra and Judy

Debra, a 60 year old woman, lives with Judy her partner of 30 years. Debra has a son and Judy a daughter, both of whom live overseas. They have four grandchildren. Debra was a librarian, but reluctantly took early retirement when she could no longer cope. Judy is also retired.

The Journey Begins

Every person’s journey will be different so it is not possible to say it starts like this and ends like this.

Jean’s journey, for example, started with a visit to her GP when a cold would not clear up. Diagnosed with a chest infection, she was given 7 days of Amoxil (an antibiotic) and 5 days Prednisone (a steroid). She thought she made a good recovery, but felt she never quite regained her strength. She “plodded along” over the next six months never really feeling right.

Debra’s journey probably began as a child. She enjoyed sport but was unable to run over long distances like the other kids. As a young adult she spent a number of years with an unresolved cough and felt rather helpless being shunted from one doctor to another, from one test to another whilst they mulled over whether she was asthmatic or not. The decision finally came down on the side of asthma and years of trying different inhalers followed.

With both of our COPDers there was a recognition that there was something not quite right with their health which resulted in a visit to their GP.

Commonly, symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath, such as getting breathless doing normal activities or not being able to do as much as you could previously without getting out of breath,
  • Wheezing, a whistling or rattling breathing sound,
  • Tight chest, a feeling that the chest has become inelastic,
  • Chronic cough, with excessive mucous/phlegm production,
  • Recurrent colds that often lead to respiratory infections and that take longer than normal to clear up.


Important If you have any of the symptoms listed above your first point of call should be your GP or Practice Nurse.
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