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February 16, 2018



A few days ago, I posted a plea for help in a new campaign that I am starting.  It was called “Thumbs Up”, and it urged everyone to throw a thumbs up gesture and a smile at anyone seen wearing an oxygen cannula.

This is a campaign, so it will be a continuing phenomenon.  You will hear a lot about it, much of it from me, because I truly believe that a simple gesture of good will, which costs you nothing, truly gives a tremendous amount on both ends.  If you do it, you will feel better, more generous.  If you happen to be the cannula-wearer, it will provide a rare feeling of recognition and approval!  What a deal for everyone involved! 

Okay.  That is all well and good, but what will it accomplish?  Why is Uncle Jim so enthusiastic about it?  Well, the answer to that requires a little explanation.  We all know, or should know, that COPD is the third largest killer in the United States, after Heart Disease and Cancer.  We lose one of our community every 4 minutes.  Yet, the funding for research for a cure for COPD is the ugly, red-headed stepchild of research funding.  I have nothing against patients with HIV or AIDS.   I only use them as a example because of the difference in research dollars.  For example, in 2012 the amount spent for research per AIDS patient was $2,787.  During the same period, the amount spent for research per COPD patient was $4.  That seems impossible, but those are the figures.

So, why the difference?  AIDS kills relatively few people these days, but the money keeps pouring in.  Meanwhile, COPD effects some 30 million people in the U. S., and we are really hurting for research money.  Why would that be? 

In talking to people who were around during the first years of AIDS, the consensus is that the advocates for AIDS research were highly visible!  They were out there and they were loud!  They held rallies and they marched in parades, and the general public and the people who make laws could not help but notice!  It was considered to be a serious epidemic, and Congress and state legislators threw money at it.  Celebrities of all kinds got behind the cause, and Tom Hanks starred in “Philadelphia”, a wonderful movie about a dying AIDS patient.  The responses, the support, the noise was overwhelming.

So, what are we doing?  We are refusing to wear our cannulas where anyone can see us.  We are staying home rather than exerting ourselves to gather our O2 equipment and going out to live our lives.  We are bearing the self-imposed shame and blame because we smoked years ago.  We are sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves, instead of working the rest of our bodies to stay strong.  We are doing everything we can to avoid drawing attention to ourselves.

All of this helps to explain why I have taken up the “Thumbs Up” campaign.  It isn’t parades and rallies and movies, but maybe the friendly gesture will be a start toward convincing COPD patients that being seen out in the world wearing a cannula is not nearly the worst thing in the world.  The Thumbs Up might just start a conversation.

We could certainly use one….

Uncle Jim

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