My Story: Jaime

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

I have always been an athletic person since I was small. I lived for my sports. When I was 13, I started smoking cigarettes and using drugs. After I first started smoking and doing drugs, I've used cigarettes, cocaine, and crack for over 25 years.

I have four daughters that I haven't seen in 10 years. I've spent time in prison and married twice. So when my mother was diagnosed with emphysema in the early 90's, my life went from bad to worse. Not only did I have my regular runs, but I also added taking care of my mother along with my daughters. That was not a pretty picture trust me.

I was so overwhelmed by the extremities of what this disease does to a human's body and mind, and because of that, I turned to drugs even more because I couldn't bear seeing my mother going through these things. But I managed to hold myself together until she passed away in 2007.

Well after my mother died, I was in a self-destruction mode. I didn't care about anyone or anything. I went on like that for two years before a friend of mine forcefully dragged me on a plane to the Virgin Islands. He put me to work and helped me come up out of the gutter I was in.

I stopped doing drugs for a year until I got seriously sick, and for about 8-10 days I was in bed with what I thought was a terrible flu. I wasn't getting better from this "flu," but worse, and I was so scared. I thought I was going to die. My friend called an ambulance, and I almost didn't make it. They worked on me for over an hour in my driveway before they had me stable enough to get to the hospital. Since that day (January 13th, 2013), I've been diagnosed with emphysema.

I've quit drugs and cigarettes, and I started seeing a doctor in a clinic for the last four years. I've had so much trouble just with the Medicaid and human services that I went without medications and doctor visits for awhile until I went back to the hospital. When I went to the hospital, the pulmonologist on duty remembered me. They pulmonologist helped me get into the new Heart and Lung Center here in St. Thomas.

Now I'm still not very stable with my sickness, and it's taking a toll on me. I've lost 100 pounds in 8 months I went from 180 pounds to a whopping 85 pounds. That's where I'm at now.

Who has been there for you? How?

I've been on this Island for a long time, so long I'm considered an "island girl" which is rarely heard of with the locals here. I'm a white woman that's been homeless, using drugs, and trying to survive on an island that is rough. And I mean rough.

All that said I'm told that I'm in the final stages of this disease and my lungs won't last a year at most. So my spirits aren't at the highest they could be. I have a wonderful family that has taken me under their wings and have done so much for me. I'm speechless. I love them dearly.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

I'm just getting all my testing, physical therapy, nuclear stress tests, bloodwork, and x-rays done. I'm trying to get myself on a regular diet, rest and exercise schedule, but I'll have to admit that sometimes I feel so overwhelmed that I go into a depression and what progress I've made – I lose.

I was so overwhelmed by the extremities of what this disease does to a human's body and mind.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

The only accomplishments I've made are quitting smoking cigarettes and drugs. I have my good days and bad ones of course, but I'm getting so, so tired of everything because it seems only to go down from the start and it's hard to deal with.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

The only accomplishments I've made are quitting smoking cigarettes and drugs. I have my good days and bad ones of course, but I'm getting so, so tired of everything because it seems only to go down from the start and it's hard to deal with.

I've quit smoking cigarettes and drugs.

I've quit smoking cigarettes and drugs.

What's your advice to someone else living with COPD?

My advice to anyone with this disease is to do the very best you can with whatever it is you have to do. With me, I'm focusing on eating healthy and developing a resting schedule. I can barely get any exercise in anymore so I do things like cook when I can, read, and play games on my phone – I'm addicted to them!

Do the very best you can with whatever it is you have to do.

Is there anything else we should know?

I'm not trying to sound like I've given up. I'll always have faith and hope. I'm trying to deal with it the best I know how, and that's why I came upon this site looking for a support group.

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