COPD patient praises treatment for giving him his life back
A 71-year-old Milngavie man, who slept in a chair for two years as he couldn’t breathe when he lay down, is hailing a new NHS treatment plan for ‘giving him his life back’.
Ken Rutherford, who has suffered from COPD for three years, is now back in his bed and sleeping well thanks to a new treatment plan which sees medics monitor his breathing remotely.
Each night Ken sleeps with a mask, which gives him air and oxygen, and the information is relayed back to doctors at Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow, including Dr Chris Carlin who first put Ken on the treatment.
“It’s like night and day, I think I am Dr Carlin’s star pupil!” said Ken, who has been married to his wife Janice for 50 years.
COPD has had a dramatic impact on the couple’s lives. They had to move from the house they had lived in for 50 years as there were too many stairs inside and up to the front door, Ken was having real difficulty sleeping and there were numerous admissions to hospital to contend with.
“I was sleeping in a chair in the living room, on and off for two years but solidly for ten months. It became my best friend, but I wasn’t sleeping properly and this made me tired and grumpy. When you don’t get a good sleep at night, you don’t want to do anything during the day and that’s how my life was,” added Ken.
“Between last December and April, I was in hospital a total of 27 days, and I was regularly brought in by emergency ambulance.
“This was often due to chest infections and complications from them. I was getting worse and that’s when I met Dr Carlin who offered to put me on a trial,” explained Ken.
He was started on non-invasive ventilation (NIV) treatment which involves wearing a mask, with a small machine which senses breathing in and out, and blows air at a varying intensity to increase the capacity of the patient’s breathing.
New technology, being trialled in Glasgow, allowed Ken to have his ventilation monitored remotely, with medics at the hospital able to review the readings from the machine and changing the machine settings via an online portal.
Ken said: “That’s when I got my first full night’s sleep in years – six hours solid, which was amazing.”
His wife Janice can’t believe the difference in her husband since starting on the NHSGGC trial.
She said: “Ken was always sleeping on and off in the day – I couldn’t get my hoovering done! He was eating, sleeping, eating, sleeping and that was it.
“Thanks to this trial and Dr Carlin, I feel I have got him back – in a good way. He is now looking forward to things and we are making plans again. It’s the wee things like what we will do with the garden next year and it’s all down to him getting more sleep. We go out for lunch and for trips, which we hadn’t done for years.”
Ken said: “I am so glad I met Dr Carlin and started on the trial. Doctors and nurses at Gartnavel can monitor my sleeping and breathing at any time but don’t do it all the time. Once I decided to have a nap in the afternoon and they call up the house to check why it was in use. It’s nice to know they are keeping an eye on me!
“I think this treatment could change things dramatically for appropriate patients. I hear the equipment is cheaper for the NHS than a night in hospital so it makes sense financially too. It might not be needed for everyone but it’s made the world of difference for me. I’m in hospital a lot less now and have much more energy.”
The benefits felt by Mr Rutherford match the data from a large UK study published earlier this year, which showed reduced hospital admissions for a subset of patients with severe COPD and high blood carbon dioxide levels, if they can access NIV treatment. Getting NIV treatment started and suited to a patient can be labour intensive and involve prolonged hospital stays and repeated hospital visits, but once established can be very beneficial.
Dr Christopher Carlin, Mr Rutherford’s consultant said: “I’ve been really pleased with how well nocturnal NIV treatment has been able to help Mr Rutherford’s symptoms, stabilise his COPD and reduce his admissions to hospital.
“We’re very excited by the early patient experience and our research data which is showing that we can safely provide NIV therapy to patients like Mr Rutherford much more effectively and efficiently than we did before. This is delivery of evidence-based realistic medicine, and it’s already improving patient’s symptoms, quality of life and healthcare costs, and we’re aiming to publish that data soon so that other centres can consider adopting this approach.
“Other patients will be considered for this by their local respiratory team, particularly if there have been admissions to hospital where acute NIV treatment has been required.”