It’s the fourth biggest cause of death in this country but there is still a huge lack of awareness about it and many people with the disease remain undiagnosed.
We are talking about COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, probably more commonly known as bronchitis and emphysema, from which one person in Ireland dies on average every six hours.
In fact, COPD affects approximately 380,000 people in Ireland and is the most common cause of emergency admission to hospital. Indeed, Ireland has the highest COPD hospitalisation rates of all OECD countries and the North West has particularly high numbers.
One man who knows all about COPD is Michael McGloin from Cartron Point in Sligo town.
Michael, who is now 66, was diagnosed with COPD in 1999 following a respiratory arrest but he had started to have difficulty much earlier than this.
“In 1979 I got out of bed one morning and collapsed. I came to and went to work but I wasn’t well and went to the doctor, who sent me straight up to the hospital. They discovered I had a collapsed lung.”
Over the next while he suffered four lung collapses before he had to go to Dublin to have it repaired.
But his problems continued with numerous infections before he was discovered to have a growth at the back of his throat and it was while in hospital having tests on this that he had a respiratory arrest and was diagnosed with COPD.
“I had never heard of it and they had no great information on it in the hospital at the time”, Michael recalls.
“I then started looking up information on it but I found there was very little information in Ireland, with no website and no support groups. So I made a decision that I would set up my own website and support group”, he said.
And so the Benbulben COPD support group was born. It now has around 36 members from Sligo, Leitrim, south Donegal and north Roscommon.
For more on this story, see this week’s Sligo Weekender newspaper – in shops now.