Helping Others Helps Herself

April 8th, 2011 | Author: Katelyn Turner

Katherine Labrie, a volunteer on the C.O.P.D. Information Line, says when she found out she couldn’t work anymore, she felt it was still important to give back.

A volunteer on the Info Line for about two years now, Labrie says COPD Support got her through a time of depression, and she decided to volunteer because “helping others helps me.”

Labrie, 52, was diagnosed with COPD 14 years ago. She says from the time of her diagnosis until now, her lungs continued to deteriorate because of her smoking; she had a hard time quitting. But three years ago, she managed to quit, improving her lung function from 33 percent to 41 percent.

“It’s important to tell people that—to quit smoking because it does make a difference,” she says.

She has been on oxygen since she was 45, but is still very active although she is on disability. In addition to the Info Line, she also co-chair for Breathe New Hampshire—a group comprised of nurses, oxygen companies, pharmaceutical companies, individuals with COPD, that raises awareness about COPD all over the state of New Hampshire, offering free screenings, events, etc. In 2010, Labrie was even named their Volunteer of the Year for her work with them.

“It was humbling and it made me feel proud that I could give my time and they thought so much of my volunteering and honored me with that,” she says.

Katherine and husband Steve

She also volunteers for a group called “Doll Committee” which makes dolls for children that come into the Lakes Region General Hospital emergency room.

“It cheers them up and it’s comforting to a lot of little kids,” Labrie says of the program that’s been around for around 25 years.

Labrie, who lives in Laconia, NH, says she smoked from the age of 12 up until three years ago. She says that as a child she had allergies and would have bouts of bronchitis frequently, so as she got older, she became sicker.

“Once I was diagnosed with COPD, I tried every single thing to quit smoking, but ultimately it was CHANTIX that did it,” she says. “It was hard but I had my family there to support me.

[CHANTIX is a non-nicotine prescription medicine specifically developed to help adults 18 and over quit smoking. The COPD Foundation is not endorsing this product but merely passing along information about it for interested parties. We recommend talking to your doctor about available options.]

Her family has been her biggest source of strength, and she says her husband of 28 years, Steve, is the best caregiver in the world.

“When I got COPD, I told him, ‘You’re going to have to do so much more’ and he told me, ‘Don’t worry about it,’” she says. “My daughter Caroline and my grandson Austin are very protective of me and help whenever it is needed.”

Labrie says that information is an individuals’ best weapon against COPD.

“I want people to know that COPD is not a death sentence. When someone new calls the Info Line, I tell them to sign up for the COPD Digest and I send them an information package,” she says.

It depends on the person but everyone is capable of educating themselves and learning how to live despite COPD.

The C.O.P.D. Information Line operates Monday through Friday from 9AM to 9PM Eastern Time. (866) 316-2673.

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