Sharing her lived experience to improve treatment and prevention

When Margaret Baillie could no longer walk across the street without gasping for breath, she knew it was time to re-think her lifestyle, and confront her addiction to tobacco once and for all.

“I had to change my life completely,” said Baillie, whose 57 year, two-pack-a-day smoking habit left her severely challenged by COPD, a progressive and incurable lung disorder. “I even had to move because my old apartment was filled with triggers that caused me to smoke.”

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Baillie tried repeatedly to break her addiction, but found little in the way of support or smoking cessation programs to help. It wasn’t until March 21, 2014 that Baillie finally smoked her last cigarette.

Frequent hospitalizations, and her wheel-along portable oxygen tank are constant reminders of the life-altering addiction that she’s conquered, but has left her in a daily battle to breathe.

“Wherever I go, my tank comes with me,” she said. “I can’t walk and breathe without it.”

Asthma and COPD are the two most common chronic respiratory conditions worldwide, causing devastating physical, psychological and financial hardships, and significant cost to the health-care system. While extensive research continues into these airway health challenges, new knowledge and treatments can be slow to reach patients.

In recognition of this fact, LAH was created to create an environment for the efficient translating of research into practice to benefit individuals like Margaret living with COPD. As part of its multi-faceted mandate, LAH seeks to accelerate research and translate new knowledge into better care and new treatments for people living with COPD and asthma.

Doing her part to further LAH’s goals, Baillie sits as a member of the initiative’s Community Stakeholder Committee. Here, she supports the patient-oriented research undertaken by LAH and other researchers within their network. Her most recent involvement pertains to the impact of smoke from wildfires on air quality, which relates to public health.

Baillie’s lived experience — as both a past smoker, patient and former health care worker — provide a unique and useful perspective on the challenges of delivering care to patients.

“I want to share my COPD experiences with others in the hope that it results in improved care and treatment,” Baillie said. “It’s important for me to be part of cutting-edge COPD research and its implementation so I can help prevent these lung diseases in the future.”