By Tamer Abouras
It’s been a big month for COPD. In addition to November officially being COPD Awareness Month, Wednesday, November 18 was World COPD Day. To mark the occasion, there have been several initiatives designed to both raise awareness of the disease and stress the importance of becoming educated about it.
Among the most noteworthy of these undertakings was the combined effort of The COPD Foundation and AstraZeneca, whose “Faces of COPD Mosaic” attempted to put (very literally) a relatable, human image on the deadly disease.
As John Walsh, President and Co-founder of the COPD Foundation told Business Wire, “We are thrilled to share the results of our collaboration with AstraZeneca around this patient centric initiative. Together, we hope to inspire people living with COPD to take action to improve their respiratory health.”
Along those same lines, Royal Philips outdid itself for World COPD Day by unveiling its Philips Breathless Choir. As its name suggests, the choir comprises “ … a group of 18 people in New York for whom breathing is a constant challenge …” and the unveiling showed the documentation, through a number of films, of their individual efforts to learn how to sing.
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Choir member, Evelin Alvarez-Flores, who lives with COPD shared a particularly inspiring story.
"In school I loved to sing and I was actually president of my high school choir. Growing up, music was always such a big part of my life, but when I was diagnosed with COPD I lost all belief in myself and in my musical abilities. I really thought I'd never sing again.”
“Being part of the Breathless Choir has been phenomenal and it has completely changed my perspective. It has given me back my confidence and not just with singing — it has taught me that I can expect more from myself, and I now know that I am capable of much more. It has been an incredible experience and one I will always treasure."
As chronic lung diseases now account for 7% of deaths worldwide and COPD costs over $2 trillion dollars to treat annually, there may be those who understandably question the importance of raising awareness for such a seemingly common condition. The very fact that those numbers are as high as they are, however, suggests that information, education and awareness still have a long way to go.
Moreover, as choirmaster Gareth Malone pointed out, singing is a kind of exultant activity that people have turned to in celebration for quite some time now.
“All through history, people have sung and made music, because it makes you feel better about yourself. It makes you feel better about your fellow man. It comforts, it consoles, it amuses, and it's so simple; it's just you and your voice, and your breath. I am no doctor but I see the impact music has made on these people's lives. And I see how much good singing has done in their souls and I think a little bit in their bodies as well."
Whether it’s a newfound or rediscovered ability, here’s hoping this Breathless Choir keeps on singing for a long, long time.