Meet Calgary’s Catherine Bedford, Alberta’s 61st double-lung transplant patient in 2015

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Catherine Bedford is a 50-year-old resident from Calgary currently recovering from a double-lung transplant she received in December 2015.

Catherine Bedford, a 50-year-old Calgary resident, has been through quite a journey in 2015.

As surgeons in Edmonton’s University Hospital performed a record-shattering 61 lung transplant operations in 2015, Bedford was the last person to receive the life-saving surgery during that extremely busy year.

“I can do whatever I want now — I’ve got my life back,” said Bedford, a former dental hygenist who had to leave her position because of her illness.

“It is so important to sign that donor card and talk about it with your families.”

Bedford first discovered something was wrong with her health during her early 30s when she was unable to do common chores, like shovelling sidewalks. And as someone who was physically fit, she could no longer jog.

‘Problems breathing’

“I just noticed that exertion just gave me problems breathing,” she said during an interview with The Lung Association March 2.

Bedford had two close calls while giving birth to her two children. When she was 32, she gave birth to a 10-week premature baby boy who, she said, “came out blue” because of a lack of oxygen from her lung health condition that wasn’t diagnosed by doctors.

Then, at 33, Bedford gave birth to a tiny, low-weight baby — the result of a lack of oxygen in her body. That is when doctors realized something was wrong.

“I was diagnosed when (my children) were four and five-years-old,” she said.

Doctors discovered that Bedford had Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic form of emphysema.

From the age of 38, right through to her operation in 2015, Bedford had to be on oxygen, carrying large bottles with her 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Doctors also added her to a transplant list when she was 48 when her condition became worse.

Breathing_icon1The whole process was a journey for Bedford, as she was once taken off the list because she had resistant bacteria in her lungs. Doctors then gave her antibiotics for four months to fight the bacteria.

Once she was added back to the list on Dec. 9, 2015, Bedford says she received “the phone call” 20 days later.

Nerves rattled after phone call

That was a nerve-racking experience for Bedford who need medication and an ambulance ride because of an anxiety attack — something that is quite common for transplant patients when they get “the call.”

“The whole process was pretty quick,” said Bedford who also supports The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT every year with Christmas Seals and its other direct mail campaigns.

“You have to help out because it is so important to give to research.”

A long journey

Bedford, who is still getting treated in Edmonton to ensure her body doesn’t reject her new lungs, says she now has a new lease on life. She can now run on the treadmill — something she hasn’t done since her early 20s — along with playing sports she loves like slo-pitch, swimming, and water-polo.

As her recovery from surgery continues, Bedford hopes to meet the family of the person who gave her new set of lungs.

“I would like to say thank you — there is no gift better than the gift of life,” said Bedford.

“I am in the middle of writing a thank you card. It’s unfortunate that one has to pass on to save another person’s life, but that’s the organ donation cycle.”

Bedford now has a taste for adventure as she wants to go travelling with her family, along with horseback riding and skiing.

“I just want to do all of these things that I haven’t been able to do in a long time,” she said.

“It has been a long journey.”

—JC—

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: Fighting air pollution in China

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Change air pollution before it changes you: PSA from China

 

Air pollution in China has been dangerous in recent weeks.

All 366 cities in China — including Beijing — failed to meet World Health Organization air quality standards in 2015. The survey also shows that more than 90 per cent of residents in China are concerned about air pollution.

Obviously, air pollution in China is unavoidable, but in order to get people to take action against air pollution, WildAid‘s GOBlue campaign created an interesting PSA that speculates what residents might do to cope with the dirty air.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 8.39.40 AMFrom its press release, “‘Hairy Nose’ is an eye-catching and thought-provoking concept that projects the issue of air pollution into the distant future. In this world, nose hair has evolved to filter pollution and has led to activities, fashion and culture centered on the now prominent facial features. In the face of this, one man refuses to accept the pollution and shaves his nose hair in defiance. The message for current urban residents is clear: Change air pollution before it changes you.”

A very important message in China, especially since lung cancer deaths have risen by 465 per cent over the last 30 years.

What is it like living in Beijing?

CBC News: A Montrealer experiences Beijing’s notorious air pollution: Published March 3, 2016

hazy-day-in-beijing-1536906-640x480CBC News caught up with a former Montreal resident who now lives in Beijing. He shared about what life is like in a city that has once reached 423 in Beijing’s air quality index — a scale that is out of 500.

Elvis Anber says on days when it is really bad, he can’t see anything outside his apartment window. Residents in China also check out the air quality as much as they check out the weather reports, he says.

He also raises a very interesting point.

“To let in that fresh air, that’s something we take for granted in Canada,” Anber said to CBC News.

“Maybe when it’s about 100 or below, you can open up the window to let in some fresh air. You really shouldn’t be out when the pollution is this high, especially over prolonged periods of time.”

Pack a mask after an apocalypse to help you breathe: American Lung Association

American Lung Association: Forget the Post-Apocalyptic Setting Killing You – What About the Dust? Published Feb. 24, 2016

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© 2015 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

Mad Max: Fury Road cleaned up the 88th Academy Awards last Sunday night by winning the most Oscars with six.

And before movie director George Miller walked on the red carpet that night, our friends at The American Lung Association asked is why those who create post-apocoliptic stories and movies don’t consider risks to lung health.

“Naturally with any scenario like post end-of-the-world, we assume natural resources such as water and gas will be scarce and probably rationed out by a power hungry warlord,” it wrote in this interesting post in its blog.

“What many people probably don’t consider are the risks to lung health. After all, humans need to breathe to survive.”

This is a must read for all lung health fans! And if the world ends, make sure you pack a mask to help you fight through sandstorms.

—JC—

 

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: From cat videos to air quality

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Editor’s note: This is a new feature we hope our supporters — and fans of lung health — will enjoy on a weekly basis. “What We’re Reading This Week” will post on PoweredByBreathing.com on Fridays to give our supporters and fans of The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT an idea of the lung health-related news stories, clips, videos, and editorial posts that we are reading, watching, and listening to every week.

We hope you enjoy it. If you see an article that you came across related to lung health, please share it with us by emailing communicationsab@ab.lung.ca. 

Is it time we re-think how we keep warm?

“The quest for cleaner fire: Why it’s time to rethink our favourite way to get warm.”: Globe and Mail, Published Feb. 17, 2016

Forest PitThe Globe and Mail’s Sarah MacWhirter studies how cities across Canada are tackling air pollution, including Montreal where it will soon have some of the toughest regulations against wood burning.

Residents in Montreal will soon be required “to register their wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, and, as of Oct. 1, 2018, will have to replace what they have now with equipment that meets the tough new EPA standard of only 2.5 grams of particulate released into the atmosphere each hour,” writes MacWhirter.

Air pollution kills 5.5 million a year: VICE

“Air Pollution Kills 5.5 Million People A Year — Over Half Of Them in China, India”: VICE News, Published Feb. 16, 2016

forbidden-pollution-1245100-639x426Staggering stuff.

According to VICE News, air pollution has caused more than 5.5 million premature deaths in 2013, and that number is expected to rise — particularly in India and China.

In two of the world’s fastest growing economies, air pollution has killed 1.6 million people in China and 1.4 million in India, writes VICE News’ Jake Bleiberg.

The World Health Organization has already estimated that 80 per cent of outdoor air pollution-related premature deaths were due to ischaemic heart disease and strokes, while 14 per cent of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or acute lower respiratory infections; and six per cent of deaths were due to lung cancer.

The purrrrr-fect message against smoking?


During the Grammy Awards Monday night, the Truth Initiative aired an amazing ad in the United States to engage young people to “be the generation that ends smoking.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 2.33.26 PM.pngIt was definitely the cat’s meow as the video — which has more than 2 million views on YouTube — cites that those poor kitties will get cancer if their owners smoke.

According to the ad that is full of cat-itude, smoking equals no cats, which means no cat videos. 😦

It’s a great message and our media specialist at The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT has already watched it a dozen times. Perhaps it’s like catnip.

-JC-

Test your home for radon before spring in Alberta

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Radon is a cancer-causing, colourless, odourless, naturally-occurring radioactive gas that comes from uranium breaking down deep in the soil. Radon enters a home through cracks in foundation walls, construction joints, and gaps around service pipes or support posts.

Preliminary data collected from 268 homes in Calgary region by a University of Calgary project shows that one in five homes are over Health Canada’s maximum acceptable limit of 200 Becquerels/m3.

Data also collected by The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT from 658 Alberta homes reveals that 16 per cent of those households have radon levels higher that Health Canada’s acceptable limit. However, when the homes are compared to limits set in the United States — a limit of 149 Bq/m3 — that’s 28 per cent of homes in Alberta that have tested higher than acceptable limits set in the U.S.

The World Health Organization recommends an acceptable limit of radon should be at 100 Becquerels/m3. With that said, 54 per cent of those same homes tested in Alberta are above WHO’s acceptable limit — a result that is much higher than anticipated.

The result is staggering because radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking in Canada. About 3,200 lung cancer deaths are attributed to radon exposure each year — about 16 per cent of all lung cancer deaths in Canada.

There are no radon free areas in Canada and data shows Alberta is in a very higher risk of having radon in almost every home. However, the question every Alberta household and landlord needs to answer is how much of that radioactive gas is in his or her home. Of course, the only way to know is to test.

Health Canada recommends that homes and buildings be tested for a minimum of three months using long term testing kit and the best time to test is during the fall and winter months. Since it is already mid-February, time is running out for households to take advantage of prime time opportunities to test their homes for radon.

 

Purchase your test kit from The Lung Association office or online from http://radonaware.accustarcanada.com/ at the cost of $35. Kits are also available at different hardware stores.

For more information about radon, visit www.ab.lung.ca/radon or contact Sufi Hassan, Program Specialist for Environment and Health by email at shassan@ab.lung.ca or by phoning 1-888-5666-5864, ext. 2252

— This blog post was authored by Sufi Hassan, Program Specialist for Environment and Health at The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT

WANTED: A home for lung transplant patients in Edmonton, Alberta

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Linda and Kent MacInnes.

LOGAN LAKE, B.C. — Kent MacInnes, a 60-year-old resident who lives in this small picturesque town in British Columbia believes he made the right — yet difficult — choice to help protect his family’s financial future.

Despite living with congestive heart failure and a fatal lung disease known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, MacInnes has chosen to pull himself off the wait list for a heart and double-lung transplant — a surgery he desperately needs in Edmonton’s University of Alberta hospital.

“If something were to happen after my surgery and I didn’t make it, then I would probably bankrupt my family and leave my wife with nothing,” said MacInnes.

Edmonton is the only city in Western Canada that has the expertise, facilities, and resources to handle these kinds of complicated surgeries, including double-lung transplants.

Medical costs are covered for the surgeries, even for patients like MacInnes who are from outside Alberta. However, travel and living expenses must be paid for by patients and their families — costs that can be financially crippling for anyone who lives outside a 100-km radius outside of Edmonton, especially for MacInnes who lives 865 km away from Alberta’s capital city.

Patients who need lung transplants — along with their caregivers — are required to stay in Edmonton for more than six months before, during and after their surgeries so they can be treated immediately if there are complications, like organ rejections.

Costs for those patients and their caregivers can be a huge financial burden, forcing families to make difficult decisions.

The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT doesn’t want to have any family decide between life and financial security. Our goal is to raise money to eventually build a home for transplant patients like MacInnes where they and their caregivers can have a place to call home during their entire stay in Edmonton.

The facility will also have staff on site where patients — like MacInnes — can get the care and information they need to help them prepare and recover from their surgeries.

“The cost of transportation is crippling in its own right,” said MacInnes. “I would have bankrupted my family.”

MacInnes says if all he needed was a double-lung transplant, having a home — supported by Lung Association donors — for lung transplant patients in Edmonton would have made a difference for his family.

His entire family is supportive of MacInnes’s decision.

“It is frightening to think how little we would have left after having to uproot and move to Edmonton,” said MacInnes who found out he had IPF after a heart attack in 2006.

“We would have to give up everything that we have here in order to be able to afford to live (in Edmonton).”

Help The Lung Association find a way to help patients like MacInnes by sending us a donation today.

Top five reasons why you should test your Alberta home for radon

Are you safe enough from radon?

A radon test kit, like this one, can be purchased at http://radonaware.accustarcanada.com.

A radon test kit, like this one, can be purchased at http://radonaware.accustarcanada.com.

Radon, an invisible and naturally occurring toxic gas, comes from uranium breaking down deep in soil. It can get into homes and buildings undetected through cracks in foundations or gaps around pipes, as well as though floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, support posts, window casements, floor drains, sumps or cavities inside walls.

No area in Alberta — and across Canada — is considered radon free, confirmed Health Canada. A 2012 cross-Canada survey shows 6.9 per cent of Canadians live in homes with radon above the acceptable limit. The Canadian Radon Guideline is 200 Becquerels/cubic metre, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approves 148 Bq/mand World Health Organization recommends 100 Bq/mto be the acceptable level.

How much would it cost to test radon levels in your home?

Spending $30 to $50 is enough to test radon levels in your home. The procedure is very simple. Just purchase a radon detector kit, take it out from the package, put in appropriate place of your basement or lowest level of house. Then leave it alone for at least three months. After those three months are up, place it in a zip lock bag and send to the laboratory using the envelope received with the package. You should get the result back within two weeks.

Best time to do the testing?

Radon level in home varies from day to day or even hour to hour. Concentration are usually higher in winter and at night when windows and doors are closed. Health Canada recommends to use a long term detector for minimum three months during fall or winter.

How bad is radon for your health?

More than eight people a day, and about 3,200 each year, dies from radon-induced lung cancer in Canada. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking in Canada and around 16% of all lung cancer cases are related to radon exposure.

What to do if tested high?

If any home test shows results higher than Health Canada’s acceptable limit of 200 Bq/m3, homeowners should call a certified radon mitigation professional who will inspect and give a quote for the mitigation work. The work costs from $800 to around $3,000 depending on the size and structure of the home.

Posted by Sufi Hassan, program specialist for environment and health at The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT. 

Does radon exist in Alberta? The Lung Association’s Amy Elefson sets the record straight

 

Winter is coming and as the months get colder, households in Alberta should consider testing their homes for radon, an odourless, colourless, and tasteless gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Amy Elefson, Program Specialist for Environment and Health at The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT, breaks down what is fact from fiction when it comes to radon in one of her two latest blog posts about this topic. To check out her blog, click here or read below:

Since many of you will be taking the time to test your homes for radon, The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT would like to take the time to clarify common misconceptions about radon.

Below you’ll find 5 common myths, and the reasons why they are myths. If you don’t know what radon is, visit www.ab.lung.ca/site/radon  and www.takeactiononradon.ca first!

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Myths:

1)       There’s no radon in Alberta.

Fact: No region of the country is considered “radon-free”, but the levels of radon differ from region to region depending on the uranium concentration in the soil. The large majority of homes will have some level of radon, though that level varies widely from home to home. It has even been shown that immediate neighbours can have vastly different radon levels.

2)       There’s no evidence linking radon and lung cancer.

Fact: Studies in both North America and Europe have found a strong association between residential radon exposure and lung cancer. These studies confirm the radon health risks predicted by occupational studies completed on underground miners who inhaled radon over a several year period. It is known that radon is a carcinogen, and these studies demonstrate that exposure to radon, even at moderate levels, can lead to lung cancer.

3)       I don’t have a basement; I’m not at risk of radon exposure. Fact: If your home is in contact with the ground (i.e. not on stilts) radon can potentially enter. This means that regardless of whether a home has a basement, crawl space or is built on a slab of foundation; the risk of radon accumulation exists.

4)       There’s no risk associated with a radon level below 200 Bq/m3.

Fact: Since radon is a radioactive gas, there is no “safe” level. However … the lower the level, the lower the risk. In addition, the risk of developing lung cancer depends on two other important factors: duration of exposure and tobacco use. The number of years a person is exposed will affect the potential of developing lung cancer. As we know, tobacco use in general is a risk factor for lung cancer. The risk of developing lung cancer if you are a lifetime smoke is one in ten. Your risk increases to one in three if you are exposed to high levels of radon. This is compared to a one in twenty risk if you are a non-smoker exposed to the same high levels of radon.

5)       My neighbour’s radon mitigation system vents into my side yard, I’m being exposed to high levels of radon because of them.

Fact: If your neighbour’s radon mitigation system has been properly installed, with sufficient room between the end of the pipe and your house, then the radon will dissipate rapidly and only minimal atmospheric levels of radon will be found around your home.