Robin Gatzimos (Hansen) started having anxiety attacks about 10 years ago.
“It would start with my mouth feeling very hollow and my fingertips would tingle and I would get dizzy and feel out of control,” Gatzimos says. “I would just feel out of control and couldn’t catch my breath. It’s very scary.”
“The reason I was tested because my oldest brother, Ray, was diagnosed with Alpha-1. The whole family (of seven children) was tested,” Gatzimos says. Another brother of hers, Ricky, passed away 10 years ago due to complications with Alpha-1. She says Ray’s health continues to deteriorate through the years.
“The last six months or so before I was diagnosed, I’d noticed I’d go out dancing with friends and I’d be totally breathless. I really didn’t know what was going on,” she says.
When she was diagnosed, Gatzimos says she quit smoking, after having done so since she was 17.
“For the first six months [after being diagnosed] I was depressed. I would go to work, come home and not talk to anybody. But then I slapped myself out of it, [I realized] I had other things to do…and I haven’t stopped since,” she says.
Since her diagnosis, Gatzimos was married and is in the middle of getting a divorce, and underwent gastric bypass surgery, losing over 100 pounds.
“My doctors originally thought my Alpha-1 was caused by my obesity. Then I moved back to Massachusetts and my doctor was education and he had a nurse who knew all about Alpha-1 and they were so wonderful and helpful,” she says.
Gatzimos says the most important thing for individuals who have COPD and anxiety to do is to learn as much as they can about it, and educate their friends and family as well.
“I would get an anxiety attack if I went outside and it was humid and I couldn’t breathe. Then the Alpha-1 came, and I couldn’t breathe and I was very disturbed by that,” she says. “Otherwise, I accept the fact that I have Alpha-1.”
“What else gave me anxiety was not knowing all that I could about Alpha-1.There are things you really need to know—as much about your condition or gene pool as possible. You need to know what it’s about, and what you can and cannot do,” she says.