I’ve always been very health conscious. I’ve exercised and tried to eat well and maintain my weight. But in my 30s I noticed I was having trouble running. It was my breathing that was slowing me down. I thought maybe I was just getting older. But, after it continued to get worse — and a few episodes of bronchitis — I went to a doctor. He did a X-ray on my lungs and seemed very concerned. He made an appointment with a pulmonary physician.
The pulmonary physician determined I had about a 60 percent obstruction of my lung capacity due to a serious case of pneumonia in my mid 20s that went untreated. My lungs didn’t heal correctly, leaving scarring behind. I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis.
“Birmingham needs to take its air quality issues seriously and do something about it. It not only affects people like me, but it is detrimental to our children and grandchildren’s health.”
With medication, I managed my condition very well for several years, but things eventually began to get worse. More exacerbation, more medication. These last few years I have ended up in the hospital once or twice a year, sometimes needing supplemental oxygen to be able to walk around the room. I have to be careful about everything I do. Environmental factors are a huge contributor to causing problems for me. I get bronchial infections very easily and they can turn into a serious infection.
Air pollution is a serious issue for me. I can’t be outside when we have high-ozone days. You can’t always avoid going outside, and high-ozone days can affect indoor air quality, too. These are the times when I have the most trouble. These are the times I can end up in the hospital.
Another problem for me is the medications I have to take. I have to take prednisone (sometimes in very high quantities). Prednisone is a steroid that comes with its own set of problems and some pretty serious side affects, like a lower resistance to infections. I’m already more prone to infections because of the condition of my lungs. As a result, I’ve had numerous infections. Some of them were hard to determine exactly what was causing the problem.
I even had tuberculosis at one point, which caused even more scarring. My lung collapsed once, and I would have died if I hadn’t made it to the emergency room in time. I ended up in the ICU for several days.
So, I am 53 years old now and I’ve been dealing with this for 30 years. There are times when I can’t get around very well at all. There are times when I do pretty well. I will go for short walks with my dogs, and sometimes I can even walk a couple of miles. (This is usually at times when the air is clean and humidity is low.)
With the poor air quality and high humidity, Birmingham is not an ideal environment for me to live — at all. But, my family is here. My grandson is the light of my life. I couldn’t bear to be away from my family. I have a great job in Birmingham. My employer is very good at working with me through my health problems. I’m a software developer and I can work from home if I need to. This flexibility has given me the freedom to continue to work.
“Dirty air can keep good businesses from opening here and keep good people from moving here.”
I also have a wonderful pulmonary doctor here at the Kirklin Clinic at UAB. The pulmonary doctors at UAB hospital are great: they know me and understand my condition. So, this is where I need to be.
Birmingham needs to take its air quality issues seriously and do something about it. It not only affects people like me, but it is detrimental to our children and grandchildren’s health. Older people are greatly affected by poor air quality.
(Actually, we are all affected. Even younger strong healthy people are affected. Those exercising outdoors on high-ozone days may as well be smoking a pack of cigarettes.)
It’s also bad for Birmingham. Dirty air can keep good businesses from opening here and keep good people from moving here. There is nothing good about it. Please do what you can to support clean, healthy air for people like me.