Lung patient also an ambassador, support group leader

It took a bump on the head, but for patient Chris Leaman, it was part of a long journey toward getting the best care possible.

In his hometown of Kingston, Chris was having severe breathing problems and enrolled in a research study to investigate why. There, he was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). COPD is characterized by poor airflow to the lungs because they are blocked, making it difficult to breathe and do everyday activities such as walking up a set of stairs.

Chris’ local general practitioner (GP) passed away while he was trying to get referred to a Kingston-area respirologist. It was difficult to get a new referral after this. While he searched, his condition was getting worse.

“I passed out from weakness and hit my head,” says Chris.

After that incident, Chris moved to Toronto to make it easier to get to a new GP. His GP referred him to a respirologist – and he was eventually referred to UHN.

It was discovered that Chris also had tuberculosis, which was dormant but needed curing before moving on to treat his COPD.

Things were complicated further when it was discovered Chris had acquired Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), an infectious illness that affects the lungs. He might have qualified to be on the list for a lung transplant were it not for the MAC. Chris also suffered heart attacks in October 2015 and July 2016.

These days, his lung capacity is at about 13%, making everyday tasks a herculean effort.

“My day starts really early,” says Chris, “Shaving takes about 30 minutes. It’s an adventure.”

Chris says ever since his first day at TWH’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinic, he’s felt comfortable and cared for thanks to the efforts of patient care co-ordinator Meeran Manji and the rest of the team.

“They’re people-people,” he says. “They’re action oriented and set goals. They listen to you and get answers for you.”

An outgoing person by nature, Chris has since become an ambassador for the Ontario Lung Association and helped start a monthly support group at TWH that has about 25 to 30 attendees.

“It makes you feel useful again,” he says.

As for his care at UHN, Chris says the team has been there to support him the whole time.

“I feel like I have some friends there, instead of just nurses and doctors.”


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