This was written by Emma Laffey, 37, of Yorkshire, England. Her mother Angela passed away 6 weeks ago due to COPD, at age 61.
As a young woman, my Mum was feisty, strong, moral, hardworking and honest, she was a devoted family woman, a wonderful wife to my Dad, Pat, and an amazing mother.
The one thing that always sticks in my mind as a child were the cigarettes! My grandparents smoked heavily and as a child, I was often sitting in the living room whilst the lot of them chain smoked, it was not a pleasant atmosphere, I can tell you!
It was only in the last few weeks of her life did I discover she was 37 when she began to have health problems, the very same age I am now. It shocked me to the core that she was so young. Only a few years later she was told she had irreparable lung damage, and again I was shocked to the core—she had kept all this from the family and struggled on keeping the knowledge to herself.
During my 20s I began to notice that she was struggling, but she was a very private person and went to most of her hospital appointments on her own.
About five years ago, she let me into her confidence and told me of her illness and the difficulty she was experiencing.
From this point her health began to deteriorate at a more rapid pace, but she still battled on, kept going to work while keeping the house clean and tidy.
She was rushed into hospital at the beginning of March of this year, and although we were devastated we absolutely thought she was in the right place and would recover. She spent four days on the ventilator when the specialist said that she would never recover, her lungs were too damaged to function on their own and she had to make the choice of whether to turn off the machine.
I can hardly type this now for the tears and the pain in my heart, the shock on her face spoke everything, even she had thought she would recover, but sadly the COPD had taken over. After sitting with my Dad and I for a few hours, she made the decision to turn off the machine, a decision that ripped out my heart. But it had to be her choice, I knew that.
We nursed her for 32 hours without the machine, the most traumatic, painful and heart wrenching 32 hours of my life. To watch her slip away destroyed me, I knew life would never be the same again, the spark was going out and I would never be able to ignite it again. My mother, my best friend, my life, my soul was leaving me and there was nothing I could do.
She passed away March 10th, and as I held her hand I could hardly breathe myself. With her went a big piece of me.
I wish she had stopped smoking, I wish it every single day. That is why I want to raise awareness of COPD, there is nothing I would not give for more time with her.
I am raising money for The British Lung Foundation because there is just not enough awareness in the UK of this disease. I don’t want anyone to feel the way I do right now, and all for the sake of cigarettes—it’s tragic but worst of all—unnecessary.
In addition to my fundraising efforts for The British Lung Foundation, I am looking at other ways to raise awareness of COPD in the UK.
I have found blogging an effective way, and have a blog in memory of my Mum, which I regularly write on about my feelings and also fund raising projects. I also use Twitter and there I have encountered many fantastic individuals and companies who are as dedicated as me to raising awareness of this disease. This is how I came to know the COPD Foundation, and indeed write this very article.
I am determined to do whatever I can to make sure my Mum’s name doesn’t fade away in vain. I once asked her if she would consider going public about the perils of smoking and COPD, but she believed it wouldn’t help, that she couldn’t get through to people. I strongly disagree with that spend time actively talking about the benefits of never starting or indeed stopping smoking.