Eastbourne lung disease group is 'breaking boundaries and making a huge difference'

A group which works to support people with chronic lung conditions in Eastbourne is preparing to launch a drop in centre in the town.

BreatheEasy (BE) Eastbourne is a support group which encourages good health and wellbeing for people who are suffering from asthma/chronic lung diseases.

Activities run by the group include monthly support meetings, pulmonary rehabilitation exercise programmes, social activities and fitness classes.

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On Tuesday (June 21) BE held an open day at the Deerfold Centre in Seaside which is used for monthly meetings, volunteer offices, and will soon be home to the new drop-in centre.

Behind the scenes with BreatheEasy Eastbourne (Pic by Jon Rigby)

BE was set up by Kim Cole eight years ago and has been an independent charity for three years. She said by being independent, the money raised can go back into the Eastbourne community.

Kim said, “I organised BreatheEasy because I have a chronic lung disease myself and there is a gap for support, especially for rehabilitation. The charity is run with the help of a team of dedicated and hard working volunteers who themselves all suffer from lung disease".

BE member Richard Harbourne said, “I was left in the dark really with no assistance – that's when I found BreatheEasy.”

Kim said people can lose motivation after the NHS rehabilitation, and that's where BE fits in.

Behind the scenes with BreatheEasy Eastbourne (Pic by Jon Rigby)

The charity currently supports around 150 people but is in need of more volunteers. There are only four volunteers as three died in the last year from their own lung conditions.

Kim has been praised by people in the community for her work.

BE member Graham May joined the group five years ago after speaking to his GP – Dr Stephen Lytton.

He said he attends the monthly meetings for useful advice given, but it's also a good social event to meet people in a similar situation.

Behind the scenes with BreatheEasy Eastbourne (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Graham said, “Kim is very dedicated, she's done a cracking job.”

Dr Lytton, who is the GP lead for respiratory care in East Sussex, said, “When it comes to respiratory problems, you can't see it and there's huge suffering that goes with it.”

Dr Lytton said people with lung conditions are often 'frightened' of exercise because of the fear of being breathless, but the right type of exercise is actually very good for patients.

He said, “I'm a great supporter of this group. This is a place where you've got the group, activities, social interaction and the sharing of knowledge. This fulfils so many of the important aspects of managing people who are breathless.

Behind the scenes with BreatheEasy Eastbourne (Pic by Jon Rigby)

“This group is breaking boundaries and making a huge difference.”

Sarah Crouch, head of the CCG, said, “We're so impressed with what they've been doing and we want to support them. It's a massive input for the community.

“There are BreatheEasy networks across the country, but in Eastbourne it's people like Kim that galvanize that. It's so unique what they do here.”

Alex Hough, a respiratory physiotherapist, is the one to run pulmonary rehabilitation sessions and has been involved with BE for four years.

She said when it comes to her role, it often gets overlooked, but people with lung conditions need to see a respiratory physio.

Alex said, “Breathlessness is a frightening thing, but we're turning that fear around. You can control it with the right help. If you don't exercise it gets worse.”

Alex runs the sessions alongside students from the University of Brighton, a partnership that was formed by working with university lecturer Hazel Horobin.

Hazel said, “There is no cure for these things but there is making the best of it, and the single best thing is exercise – that's where pulmonary rehabilitation comes in and that's why we work with BreatheEasy.

Exercise is a medicine, we're a branch of that.”

Alex actually wrote the textbook Hazel teaches to students, and then students help with sessions as part of their training.

Hazel said less than 20 per cent of people that could get rehab actually use it which is why charities like BE are so important.

Mayor Pat Rodohan attended the BE open day and said, “One more charity doing a wonderful job. There's real support here, the charity is working with the doctors hand in hand – it's lovely to see.”If you want to get in touch with BE Eastbourne call 079498111599, email [email protected] or visit www.breatheasyeastbourne.org

There's also more information here - https://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/pulmonary/

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