Actress and TV presenter Nadia Sawalha has backed a campaign to raise awareness of the crippling lung disease COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – by wearing a special corset for the day that emulates the symptoms of the killer illness.
Nadia, whose own grandmother had COPD, wore the corset and a facemask – as sufferers often have to have continuous oxygen – to understand better how the disease affects patients.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Nadia said, “I hadn’t thought about Nan for years. But when I put this on I was reminded of her.
“She had a lung disease and we used to get irritated…
“We thought she was hamming it up because she kept stopping, holding on to walls, bending over and standing with her hands on her back.
“What I didn’t know is that she was desperately trying to take a breath.”
Nadia went on to say she’d found experiencing the disease as sufferers do was “truly horrific.”
She said, “You find you are trying so hard to open your lungs that your eyes widen.
“Having a conversation becomes almost impossible because all you can think about is your next breath.
“There’s something very melodramatic about how a person looks when they are gasping for air, so you can understand why some people are unsympathetic.
“I struggled to make it up the stairs, to buy coffee and trying to cook was so frustrating.
“I love making food for my family, so it was awful to have that taken away.
“Reaching up for the cupboards, down for the drawers – everything has you wheezing. It’s as if when your airways narrow, so does your very life.”
Nadia, who’s backing the COPD: Know it. Check it. Treat it campaign, feels the experience brought her closer to her nan.
She added, “As soon as I walked with it on, I was taken back to walking with her as a child, thinking: ‘Why does she keep stopping?’
“It looked like she was making a meal of it but now I know how she must have felt at the time.
“She would stop and pretend she was looking around and I’d find it so irritating, but obviously she didn’t want people to see her struggle.
“She died when I was 11 and she was only in her late 50s, which is too young.
“My nan could be cantankerous and she continued smoking until her last breath, but I was devastated when she died.”