Belfast Telegraph

Paddy thought his life was over after he was diagnosed with an incurable and deadly lung disease... now he walks 12 miles a day

By Nevin Farrell

Walking the equivalent of almost half a marathon every day has helped a Belfast man overcome the symptoms of a disease with no cure and which is the world's third biggest killer.

Father-of-two Paddy Lynas thought his life was over when he was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

The lung condition caused by smoking and other occupational and environmental factors such as dust, chemicals and pollution affects 330 million people worldwide.

The disease cost Paddy his job and he was also suffering from depression over the death of several close family members.

Now, just a few years later, he walks 12 miles a day and is off all medication.

"First, my father, who was my hero, died," he said. "Then I lost three more of my family - my mother and two sisters - within 18 months of each other."

"Meanwhile, I was struggling with this lung disease that I was told would not improve.

"It seemed to me that I was in a pit with no way of getting out.

"Then I got a letter from Pauline Millar, who runs Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke's 'Taking Control' Self Management Programme for people with conditions like mine, asking me to join."

Initially, Paddy was unconvinced.

"To be honest, I wasn't sure it was going to work," he said.

"I was depressed. I found it hard to breathe and my skin was grey. But part of the idea of self-management is that you make a promise about what you hope to achieve.

"I said I would walk three miles, and I did. Then I promised I would walk six. After that I managed nine and decided I should extend it to 11."

From that point on, there was no stopping Paddy as he enjoyed a new lease on life - and friends were as surprised as he was as he began trekking around the country.

"Everybody said I would never manage it, but I felt great," he said.

"I started to walk into the country, then to the zoo. I'd meet people I knew miles away from the house, and they'd ask me if I needed a lift, but I told them I was walking.

"Before long I'd lost more than two stones in weight and stopped all my tablets.

"Walking is my medicine now.

"But if it hadn't been for Pauline and NI Chest Heart & Stroke, I simply wouldn't be here today.

"They saved my life."

"The doctor tells me my lung function has improved. I never get a taxi or a bus - I just walk everywhere. I used to be a chef, and since my health has improved I've started cooking again."

Paddy Lynas was speaking to highlight World COPD Day. For more information about COPD see www.nichs.org.uk/respgroups

Factfile

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - or COPD - is the name used to describe a number of long-term lung problems which can make breathing difficult.

COPD tends to creep up on people slowly.

They can cope with it for many years before symptoms reach a point that that forces them to see a doctor.

Symptoms can include:

• A persistent cough

• Wheezing

• Production of mucus or phlegm

• Shortness of breath

• Chest infections

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