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With a little help, Eddie Brownlow realised he could manage his COPD and get on with life.
Having served in the navy and the army as a paratrooper, Eddie Brownlow was fit when he left the forces aged 47. But he had smoked about 15 cigarettes a day for most of his life.
"It was the done thing back then. It relaxed me after a parachute jump," says Eddie.
After retiring from a second career as a sales manager, Eddie was getting breathless whenever he had to lift something heavy or exert himself. He ignored the fact he was feeling a "bit puffy" all the time and carried on.
But by 1998 he couldn't ignore it any more. "We were in Mexico on holiday and I had booked a marlin fishing trip," says Eddie. "But when I woke up I could hardly breathe. Luckily I recovered, but when I got back home I picked up a chest infection."
He went to his GP, who referred him to hospital. He was diagnosed with COPD. He followed a rehabilitation programme, which he describes as excellent. He learned about his medication, how to exercise and how to improve his diet.
Eddie says: "I realised there was no need to panic. You just need to learn to manage your condition. There's advice available."
One important thing Eddie knew he had to do was give up smoking. It took him quite a while, but with patches, advice and support from his wife he finally kicked the habit.
He also got involved with his local British Lung Foundation group, Breathe Easy, a voluntary organisation that supports people with breathing conditions like COPD. Within a few months of joining he took over his group and built up the membership.
Eddie now makes it his job to raise awareness of breathing conditions and, through his efforts, the town's mayor selected his branch of Breathe Easy as his chosen charity recently.