Your chance to be a real lifesaver

John McGarva undergoing tests
John McGarva undergoing tests

WOULDN’T it be great if you could make a difference to the world.

Some of us could. In fact, anyone with a breathing problem could be just the sort of person needed to help like-minded sufferers.

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is encouraging more patients with breathing conditions to take part in research trials that could help to improve treatments in the future.

John McGarva, 64 from Billingham, certainly did.

He was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) 10 years ago. COPD is commonly caused by smoking and early symptoms include breathlessness and a persistent cough. Since being diagnosed, John has three inhalers to help his breathing.

The former steel fixer said: “Being involved in research can one day make a real difference to the people, like me who suffer from these illnesses. I’ve been coming to the hospital for treatment for COPD and I’m hoping that other people like me will benefit from new treatments.

“I’ve done various tests to see whether I can take part in a number of research studies. I know that I need to meet certain criteria to be able to take part.

“Even if I’m not suitable for one, I know I’ve not wasted my time because all the information the team take from these tests will show whether I can be involved in another.”

John, who also believes that regular exercise is helping him with his condition, continued: “Living with COPD means that you are up and down a lot. Walking slowly is okay but the minute you start walking uphill or speed up, it is hard because you get out of breath easily.

“So, I go swimming at Mill House Leisure Centre in Hartlepool every morning. It’s a routine.

“I spend about 45 minutes at the pool and go at my own pace. It’s good for me socially and it does improve the way I feel. I also spend time working in my allotment, so I make sure I get plenty of exercise that I enjoy.”

Clinical research nurse June Battram said: “The clinical trials we run in the lung health department are all about developing treatments for respiratory illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

“Patients, who take part in a research study, might be given a new inhaler for example, to try for a number of weeks and they would have to record how they feel every time they use it.

“Some research studies can take as long as six months or more and others can be as simple as completing a quick questionnaire”.

Not everyone can take part, said June.

“Like John, not everyone is going to be suitable to take part in every research study, but there is often some research they can take part in. Even by becoming involved, people are helping us gather information ready for up and coming research.

“We’re really grateful to all of our patients who take part in research. Studies rely on the goodwill of patients to give up their time, to help develop and to explore new options for treatments.”

Consultant physician Dr Richard Harrison added: “John is a great example of how our local community is helping us to make a positive impact on the future advances in healthcare.

“I would like to encourage more patients with chronic lung disease, COPD and asthma to become involved in research. It can be helpful to the patients in helping them understand more about their condition and their treatment.”

Research and development manager Jane Greenaway said: “Patients should be reassured that any research they are asked to become involved in has been approved by the trust and by a research ethics committee.”

To find out more, contact the clinical research nurses on (01642) 624580.