Getting over the stigma of wearing a mask in public!

It has been a busy few weeks with a number of trips down to London. Last year when I had a few trips to London there was a clear deterioration in my asthma when I was there. My peak flow dropped substantially and I was constantly feeling tight, wheezy and just couldn’t get my breath or settle my breathing. I took all the precautions I thought I could- such as increasing my treatment, pre medicating before going out and about in a bid to stop my airways getting more irritated. It was interesting to see the drop by almost 150 l/min in peak flow between arriving in London at night and the next morning it was down. It really did not take long at all. What did take a long time was getting my peak flow to come back up. It was not until I had been back home for about 5 or 6 days that my peak flow returned to normal. (The trip I am talking about to London was ironically a research meeting to discuss air pollution on lung health!)

Knowing I had and will have many more trips to London I knew I couldn’t expose my lungs to that level of irritation again and couldn’t afford to let my peak flow drop and need more medication to get back on track again. If I did not do anything then I would be on this rollercoaster every time I was in London or other heavily polluted cities and my lungs really don’t need it.

After some research I decided to purchase a Cambridge mask with a carbon filter in it to protect my lungs from the air pollution when in London or else where.


I need to point out here that there is a lot of people out there wearing masks such as this or the vogmask which also has a filter in it but it is VERY important to realise that these masks will not protect you from bacteria or viruses. Often there are posts on social media of people wearing these masks in hospital to protect them due to suppressed immune system. They don’t work for that and the companies state that too. Only high grade surgical masks will protect from bacteria or viruses.

I was really apprehensive about wearing it and thought I would get funny looks, pointed at and comments made, but one fo the people I was with in London told me to put it on and my breathing was more important than what other people think. So I wore it and got on with it. I really was not sure how much it would help, if it would help at all or was it just a waste of money.


Since purchasing the mask and wearing the mask when out and about in London I can say it has been worth spending the money. I was very skeptical and part of me still is as both London trips recently were very close together so I am not sure how much might be just that my asthma was not too bad. Once arriving in London the next morning my peak flow dropped by 50 l/min but it also stayed stable throughout my time there rather than moving around the place. I had some low grade breathlessness, coughing and chest tightness but nothing massively concerning that gave me too much cause for concern. Once back home my peak flow did pick up a little bit but I cant directly attribute the initial drop to London but I think what I can say is that wearing the mask with the filter did impact my lungs and kept my lungs stable. I have had 2 trips now with the mask and things have been more stable as a result.

I am still trying to understand just how much the pollution impacts my lungs but clearly it is as when wearing the mask there is a marked change from pre mask and a change for the better. Unfortunately I will not be able to avoid going to London as there are so many things down there with regards to research etc but using the cambridge mask has made a difference and has added a little bit more security for y lungs and reduce the risk of exacerbation as a result of pollution. I am not sure how much the pollution in Edinburgh effects my lungs but it might be something to consider and perhaps wearing a mask in Edinburgh night help too.

I cant reiterate enough though that these masks are not hospital grade and will not protect against all viruses and bacteria etc. It is a carbon filter. The website does say it filters bacteria etc but speaking with medical professionals and different lung charities they do not support their use for bacteria and viruses protection.

Achieving Dreams!

Back when I was at school all I wanted to do was play sport. I lived and breathed sport. I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I look back at the start of my blog way back when it was in its infancy in 2008. I was in distress at the though of having to give up sport. At that time I thought everything was over. I was doing things I shouldn’t have and was just pushing myself to the edge to try and hang on to any amount of normality and just be a normal sports students who could go and play football, rugby or hockey when I wanted and not when my chest dictated.


(my last ever football match at uni with my coach, captain and best mate)

I fast forward to now where I have accepted that sport is not what I will always be able to do now. I have adapted and play sport with some limitations but play a position that accommodates my chest- in goal!!! But also know that every training session I go to or every game I play is a bonus and is something that a few years ago I didnt have. I have dealt with the grief of losing my sport but now I am finding everything I ever wanted is coming back to me but without me really going out and trying to get it and putting my health at risk in the process.

Since being back involved in lacrosse from really the U19 World Championships last summer I have loved every minute of it and not looked back. I still kind of pinch myself to think that this year I have done so much without my breathing putting up to much of a fight. Perhaps it was because it started at an all time low spending New Year in intensive care and really building up from nothing! It couldn’t get any worse that fighting to breath and every breath feeling like it was running a marathon.


But anyway moving on. After qualifying in nursing I thought my career in sport and sports development was over and to be honest I didnt miss it. I love nursing and wouldn’t do another job.

However now I am doing the development role at my lacrosse club and have just become development director for Lacrosse Scotland. I am really looking forward to trying to build lacrosse in Scotland and get more people playing. We have already started by setting up a new after school club at the Royal High School in Edinburgh.

I can’t say it was an easy run to become development director. There was a lot of opposition to me running and the fact that more members from our club would be on the board. To be honest the sand bagging that took place only drove me on more than it did deter me from running. Karma always comes around and it is going to hit in big doses so I am pretty sure that it was not worth their bother in the end. I got the role I was running and they…well we will just wait and see.

For me it is all about getting more people playing lacrosse and in a strange way I am coming full circle and able to do the job I love as a nurse but also the job I once wished for as doing sports development. I now get to do this in my own time. I really can’t wait to get stuck in.

I just really hope my chest holds up. Its been pretty unsteady recently and have found I am up and down on my steroids like a yoyo and have more sleepless nights than I do ones where I sleep soundly. I will continue to try and get on top of it but I think it will keep being a never ending battle and just when you start getting on top of it things will go peat tong again.

23 days on….. and its only got worse!


Smokers need to imagine what it is like to fight for your life, to work so hard to get that tiny bit of breath in to supply oxygen to your brain and body. They need to experience this. They need to fast forward 10, 15, 20 years and try taking those precious breaths which they won’t be able to due to all the damage from smoking for many many years. They will soon have to fight for each breath. Only there fight will never get better. Their obstruction will not be reversible it will be permanent, there cough will not go away, the chronic chest infections won’t get better with antibiotics they will be stuck in a downward spiral as their airways get smaller and smaller due to inflammation and obstruction. They will rely on Drs and Nurses to fight to make them better. They will need the help of social services and be left gasping for breath just getting out of bed or standing up. This will all be due to the years of smoking cigarettes. The feeling they will feel are the feelings they make me feel every time I have to pass someone who is smoking. They don’t give a second  thought about it. They think I am over reacting about the effect the smoke has one me. They will comment about it being a free country and they can smoke when and where they want without thought of the damage it does to others. They will expect the health service to look after them and some of the people they have made ill will have to be looking after the people who smoked.


The day that you fight for your breathe and fight for your life will be the day when you experience exactly what many asthmatics feel like when exposed to smoke.

Back on the first of April I questioned wether or not the NHS going smoke free was a big April Fool. Its the 23rd April and it appears that the NHS are not going smoke free even though they say they are. Rules are made to be broken but this new rule seems to be the easiest one to break of all.


I and many of my asthmatic friends would be the first ones to stand up and rejoice that hospital sites are meant to be smoke free. It would mean so much more than not having to wonder how many times you will need to use your inhaler from taking your first step into hospital grounds to getting inside the door. It would mean no longer having to walk the long way round to find a door not many use to enter the hospital avoiding smokers hovering outside, it would mean being able to do your job or attend appointments without being worse than you were when you left your own house. The list is never ending for the benefits of not smoking.

There are no benefits to smoking what so ever but occasionally when I am very frustrated and having trouble to breathe, part of me wishes I had smoked. If I had smoked there would be a physical reason why my lungs don’t work as they should and why I need inhalers, nebulisers and tablets to keep my lungs working. This only comes into my mind when I am sitting awake in the small hours of the morning using my nebuliser wishing there was a cause for all this illness which just now I don’t have.

This is why I can not believe what I am about to say. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever dreamt that I would be in favour of revoking the rule and allow people to smoke on site again. I am stunned I would even consider thinking such a thing, but the reality is I would prefer it. I hate part of myself for this as I know what it feels like not to be able to breathe and I watch powerless as strangers choose to inflict damage and give themselves a future of pain and suffering.

Why do I want this?

Since the ban on smoking on hospital sites it feels like there has been an epidemic of people smoking on the hospital site and they are everywhere. Around every corner there will be someone puffing on a fag. It has made getting from the carpark to inside the building a logistical nightmare trying to find doorways which are not clouded in a plume of smoke.

At least before there were smoking shelters which were used pretty well and for those who did not use the smoking shelters there were the hot spots where you could find a group gathered. You knew the areas to avoid but now it feels like there is no where to hide from people smoking.

The biggest irritation is that no one is patrolling and enforcing the ban. No one is picking people up on smoking and god forbid you take it upon yourself to suggest people did not smoke the looks and comments you got were not worth it.

As a worker on an NHS site I despair on many occasions. There are rules for everything and it begs the question why are some enforced and some not. For example parking. You are quizzed about why you are trying to get into a carpark on arrival at the barrier and if it not for a reason that is approved by the car park people you don’t get in. As a community worker based in the hospital I have to take a lot of stock out to patients which can be very heavy. The solution is that it is dropped down stairs and I then bring the car round. The number of times a warden has come to tell me my bumper is over the yellow hashed lines or I am in the wrong place is astonishing. Half the time I spend arguing with them about being allowed to park to pick up stock I would have been away far quicker had they not caused an issue. I would have been creating less of an obstruction. My issue is that there are people enforcing rules which are doing no damage at all and not preventing someone getting treatment or anything being detrimental to someones health yet a ban is in place to stop people smoking on NHS sites and there is no one to enforce it.

It is disgusting that they can get away with this. I am sure if I went (wearing a mask and protection) and sprayed air freshener or a substance with an unpleasant smell all the smokers would be up in arms about someone spraying something yet they have no issue making others breathe their smoke in when it could damage their health.

I was so annoyed last nigh about it as I suffered a bit of an asthma attack- nothing major on my way home from work as I was rushing to get my haircut, I wrote to Asthma UK, Asthma UK Scotland, ASH and also my local MSP about how the smoking ban on NHS sites has almost caused a bigger problem than smoking was before. At least before you knew were people were and could avoid areas. It was not ideal but it worked. Now previous “safe spots” are a hazard making an already slightly problematic task nigh on impossible. I decided to take action and will await my responses. It may not come do anything but for myself I feel better for expressing how I feel and doing a small part to try and make life better for myself and others who suffer at the hands of those who are selfish and smoke.

I feel so passionately about this subject more so than any others because it effects my ability to carry out the care I need to give my patients to ensure they have the best quality of life they can possibly have.

My whinge is over sort of!! Had a pretty awful day at work and it has left me questioning why I bother killing myself to do  the best job I can. Pushing myself is making my life very restricted. I love my job and I love my job so much that I am prepared to sacrifice some of my free time to rest and recover from hard days at work. But today I really wondered why I bother. Many more days like that its not going to be worth it as I really can’t afford to sacrifice any more of my social time to allow myself to rest and get better and stronger for the next day ahead. I have a lovely weekend planned as it is my Stepmums 60th so we are all going out for a family and friends lunch on saturday and then I have golf on Sunday before more golf next weekend!


Was it just an April fool or are the NHS sites going smoke free?


Driving into work yesterday a lot of the news on the radio was about the NHS sites are going smoke free, meaning no one is allowed to smoke in or around the hospital sites. For me this was great. It meant going into to work and not worrying about walking round the entire site to find a door where no one was smoking outside it and having to walk through a fog of smoke potentially causing me a life threatening asthma attack.


As I left my car in the cap park to walk into the hospital I wondered if it was a big April fool. I passed more people smoking as they left the hospital to the car park than normal. Going from the hospital to the car park is all hospital site. No one seemed bothered that they were smoking. No one was patrolling to stop people smoking. Maybe it is just a big April fool giving so many people false hope. The hope that they can move around there work place without navigating and avoiding all the smokers hot spots.

At lunch a few were saying it is ridiculous they have to go of the site to smoke because it is hard to go without a cigarette when you smoke. My argument is that smoking is a choice. You choose to smoke. You choose to risk addiction, you choose to smell of stale smoke, you choose to waste your money, you choose to risk long term damage to your health.

But ultimately you choose to risk the lives of other people who you subject to your smoking or stale smoke left on your clothes.

When you have a condition that effects your breathing through no fault of your own, you have not inhaled toxic substances or abused your lungs, but your lungs are just rubbish you do all you can to look after those lungs and protect your breathing.

I don’t have a choice about how my lungs are. They are just that way.

You do have a choice, you have a choice to preserve your own lungs but also the lungs of others.

You can’t see chronic breathing conditions. You don’t know if the person walking past you may end up in the high dependancy because of the smoke from your cigarette. You don’t think about that. All you think about is getting your nicotine fix, and that trumps all your other thoughts, thoughts that you have when at work about saving people or getting them better or what it may have been that caused them to become so poorly.

I know some who read this will think it is totally over the top and I should not get so wound up about people smoking on or off a hospital site but this is the real way I feel. Living in fear knowing someone else actions which won’t effect them can be devastating for someone else shouldn’t happen. It does and will continue into the future.

I have many friends who smoke, family members who smoke and have had partners who smoke and none of them really understand the full impact their habit has on me. Even the smoke lingering on their clothes can leave me needing my inhaler. I hate making a fuss about it and in this post it is the only real time I can express exactly how I feel about it and its impact on me. Many just think take your inhaler it will be fine but its not. And if those closest to me don’t understand the risks then how will anyone else.

My main point is that smokers have a choice no one forced them, those with difficult asthma and CF etc do not have a choice. I often ask why did I get the rubbish lungs. Why not give them to someone who smokes..its what their lungs will end up like in the end. A smoking habit will leave you gasping for breath, chronic chest infections, a persistent cough, and lungs which are so poor at turning oxygen into carbon dioxide that too much oxygen can be more dangerous than low oxygen. I do not wish this on anyone but in my dark moments when I struggle to breathe and every little thing takes so much effort I do think why me? what did I do? Part of me sometimes wonders that perhaps if I had smoked or inhaled a toxic chemical or something then at least there would be a reason and a cause for my asthma being as it is but there is not. Most of the time I can deal with this but on some occasions it is really hard.


(do you want your lungs to look like the ones on the right??)

If you smoke, try jumping ahead 30 years and see what your breathing will be like- put a close peg or something on your nose to stop you breathing through your nose and get a small plastic straw to put in your mouth and breathe through, now run as far as you can and see how difficult this is. You can take the close peg off, you ca take the straw out your mouth, you can breathe normally do you want to have a future where you can’t escape from breathing like that?


(I apologise for the way this post has come out. I am not aiming to attack smokers although reading back it does seem that way. But these are my true feelings and I have to be honest. With all my posts I never alter what I have written other than correct any spelling mistakes and grammar but thats it. I don’t change what I have written as what I have written comes from the heart)