Friday 20 December 2013

Christmas with the Catwg Bell Ringers

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas until we have celebrated at our Neath annual party. The Swansea group came over once again to join our festivities and fun, and we had the Catwg Bell Ringers to entertain us and then work us hard. Yes, we had to ring the bells ourselves - bit of a din to start off with but we got there in the end.

Most  of the tasty nibbles were eaten, but the few leftovers went home for our various grandchildren. The plateful we brought home disappeared pretty quickly once our two came to visit.

The ladies always look so cheerful in their red and green outfits with a Victorian look about them. They have helped us celebtate Christmas before and are firm favourites, so we were pleased to have them back.

I hope all our followers have a lovely Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

Saturday 30 November 2013

Ystradgynlais Christmas Fair

We were up early, in the dark, on a cold and frosty morning, to get into the hall in time to get a good table position. Our dolls sold well - £70.00 taken for our Breathe Easy group which makes all the work involved worthwhile.
Now I need to make lots more Welsh ladies, they are always the first to go, but I am going to have a night off knitting tonight and give my fingers a rest.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

World COPD Day - 20th November 2013

COPD - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - is a rotten thing to have. It can be debilitating, isolating and cause anxiety and depression as well as breathlessness and nasty chest infections. But it doesn't have to be all gloom and doom. This week there is lots of information out there to support and help. Our Awareness Stand is in the Baglan Resource Centre, near Aberavon Beach.

Come and see us, find out about our Breathe Easy group which meets once a month in the Owain Glyndwr Community Centre in Neath. Being a member of a support group solves many of the problems associated with chronic conditions. We welcome all people with lung conditions and their carers and support each other through good times and bad.

We meet regularly for lunch, have days out and fundraise on a grand scale to help pay for research into lung disease and to support the work of British Lung Foundation.

Our carers go coal mining.
Campaigning at the Welsh Assembly

Celebrating Christmas
At the National Gardens

Our annual abseil fundraising event

A brave abseiler

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Monday lunches

For the last two years we have been meeting for lunch, every first Monday in the month, at various pubs in the area. We have a lovely choice of locations from the coast to forest and waterfall country.
This month the lunch was in memory of our friend and former chairman, Helen, who sadly passed away earlier this year. She had always enjoyed these lunch gatherings and treated our group to this occasion.

Helen, we remember you with fondness and memories of much laughter. You always could see the silly side of things.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

COPD Team report

Chris Burrows and Jo Mort from the COPD Team came to report on progress over the last year. Fiona Reynolds talked earlier in the year about including new members into the team and, after a few setbacks and illnesses, getting the service back up to what it was a couple of years ago.
Chris and Jo were able to report that two more respiratory nurses have joined the team and that a Health Care Support Worker will be added too. Dr Martin Ebejer is now the clinical lead.
Our physiotherapist is leaving and now all we need is to appoint someone else into her post in order to keep the excellent pulmonary rehab courses running.
We also talked about hospital visiting. Many close relatives don't realise that they can visit in the afternoons. Notices in ABMU hospitals state that visiting hours are in the evenings in some wards, which include the ones we use. It should be made clear to relatives when people are admitted that they can visit in the afternoons. People in hospital with respiratory conditions are often worn out and asleep by 6.30, so an evening visit is pretty pointless and distressing too.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Penny Woods inspires us

Dr Penny Woods, chief exec of British Lung Foundation, talked to a group of Breathe Easy members about the way forward for our charity. She talked of putting the emphasis on research and that she dreams of a day when lung diseases can be cured. It's happening in other areas of medicine and one day it will happen for us too. Already we have seen improvement in quality of life through new approaches to dealing with lung conditions which are delivered through pulmonary rehab programs - pulmonary rehab is the best thing since sliced bread as far as I am concerned. It certainly showed me that life is worth living with COPD. Also there is great research going on, being funded by BLF, to ease the symptoms. In our case "every little helps" but for our grandchildren and their children we want lung disease to be a thing of the past. After all, a lot of it is caused by pollution such as smoking, asbestos, traffic, industrial etc, and all of these can be eradicated through smoking cessation, clean air programs and other means.
We were joined by members of other Breathe Easy groups from Gilfach Goch, Llanelli and Swansea - some old friends and a lot of new faces. It's always nice to see a crowd of people enjoying themselves.


Then came the surprise of the day, Breathe Easy Neath Valley was presented with the National Winner Award for an outstanding contribution to awareness raising and campaigning.

And then another pleasant surprise, I was awarded a Regional Award for outstanding service to BLF, Breathe Easy and the community.

How nice it is to get recognition for the work we do .

Saturday 20 July 2013

Bethan Jenkins and Tina Williams

It was so hot on Friday afternoon, but our meeting hall in Neath was a haven of cool breezes and shade - bliss ! - helped by large jugs of iced lemon drink, thoughtfully brought along by two of our members. They deserve a medal.

Tina talked about a new initiative, working with Swansea Football Club, to promote better physical and mental health, especially amongst young men, who are the group who seem to be affected most in the recession by these sorts of problems. Of course her work covers everyone who needs such help and advice.

Bethan, one of our Assembly Members, was very keen to follow up our concerns about hospital visiting. Services are to be centred, probably in five main hospitals along the M4 from Cardiff to Swansea and one in Merthyr. As each hospital specialises it means that patients will often be hospitalised further from their homes than is the case now. We brought up the point that officially hospital visiting is only in the evenings at most hospitals which will be almost impossible for some people, the elderly, disabled, people with youg children and so on. Public transport is pretty infrequent in a lot of these valleys. A spokesperson from a local health board said that next of kin can visit in the afternoons and they should be made aware of that, but it's not happening. So Bethan said she would look into it. It was brought up at a meeting of the CVS in Neath last week, so, hopefully we will get some clarification on the situation.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Aberavon Beach Festival

Oh boy, what a scorcher. I think the whole population of the area was out on the beach on Saturday and most of them came through our marquee. You can see from the picture how crowded it was and that continued almost non-stop from 10.00am to 4.00pm.

Loads of people took away information from our stand. One lady introduced herself to say she was organising a sponsored walk from Neath to Swansea to raise funds for BLF Wales. I wish her and all who take part every success.

It was a lovely, if exhausting day, and I almost sold out of dolls, making a fantastic £115.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Meet the Boss

Our new Chief Exec, Dr Penny Woods came to Sophia Gardens in Cardiff to meet with all the Breathe Easy group officers. Her first words were "call me Penny" so we shall.
Penny outlined the cuts we are going to have to make in the current financial climate, in order to ensure that our charity will continue to function in supporting all people in England, Scotland, Wales and N Ireland, who are living with lung disease.
So it gave us great pleasure to be able to present £3,317:00 to Patrick Flood-Page (chairman of BLF Wales) and Penny. As they say "Every little helps."

Monday 24 June 2013

Healthy eating

We all know what we should eat, but how many of us stick to a really healthy diet ? Julie Davies told us all about the things we shouldn't eat - too much sugar, salt and fat and lots of other stuff - and all the things we should eat - such as fruit, vegetables, grains and seeds. I love all those good things but I like a lot of the bad things too.

I think the best message Julie had for us was to think back to what out parents and grandparents ate (our age group is 55+). People who lived through the war and had to cope with rationing and shortages rarely put on weight, let alone become obese. Meat was rationed so they only ate small portions. Many people had their own gardens and grew their own vegetables and fruits, so they were plentiful.

I am going to try, I really am but I know it will be difficult so I will try to make my binges few and far between. Then with my three visits to the gym a week I might manage to get rid of some of my middle age spread, if not all of it.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

An honour

I was very proud last night to be presented with an award for volunteer of the year at Neath Port Talbot CVS. It was a lovely evening and wonderful to see so many young people being recognised for giving their time freely to help others.


Big Pit - Blaenavon

Yesterday, some of our group had a wonderful day out at the Big Pit in Blaenavon. For those of you who have never visited it's a must - please make the effort and go.

Three of us went down the coal mine and said what a great experience it was.

 The rest stayed on the surface, visited the pit head baths and looked at the museum on mining through the ages, ending with the controversial miner's strike which saw the end of coal mining in South Wales.

We finished our visit with lunch in the miner's canteen and a browse around the shop before we left to go home, tired and happy.

Passenger assistance

I don't write about myself too often - this blog is mostly about the Breathe Easy group and its activities. However I have just come back from a cruise in the central Mediterranean, using my portable oxygen concentrator, and found a remarkable lack of assistance, or even concern, for disabled passengers in some of the ports we visited, namely Venice and Valencia.
Both of these ports have just installed new facilities for cruise liners, in the shape of an air bridge into the port buildings.

this gives an idea of the distance we had to walk in Valencia and there is the same distance again to get through the building and out to the buses and taxis. It was a similar story in Venice.

Here is a copy of the letter I have sent to the Venice Port Authority and a similar one to Valencia -


Dear Sir

I recently visited the lovely city of Venice on the P and O cruise ship, MV Oriana. I am a disabled passenger and was dismayed at the lack of facilities to assist disabled passengers within the port area.

If I had arrived in your city by air, there would have been assistance for me in the form of a wheelchair, or electric buggy, from the aeroplane, through the airport to the cars, buses and taxis outside, as there is in all international airports these days. In the port there was no help at all and no one to ask for help either. There was an extremely long walk on return to the Oriana on the airbridge, made even longer by the dogleg at the end of it. I was not the only passenger distressed by this.

The average age of passenger on the cruise I was on was 75 years and this is quite common. Cruising is a gentle way for older people and disabled people to travel, which made the lack of facilities to help us use your port even more disappointing. In the West Indies last year, on a similar aged cruise, with similar distances to walk, there was a small land train in one port, some wheelchairs in others. These were well used and the operators were rewarded by grateful passengers who had enjoyed their time in the islands confident that they would get the help they needed for the long walk back to the ship.

If this is the case in all Italian ports it means that I will be unable to visit Italy again as my medical condition means that I should avoid flying, making cruising the ideal way for me to travel. Please consider having some kind of assistance to help the less able visit your country.    

If anyone else has had similar experiences, please leave a comment or write to the ports concerned. Needless to say, I have received no reply from either of the ports

Saturday 20 April 2013

Osborne House

Phil Bowen gave us a fun and informative, illustrated talk on Osborne House. It really is a time capsule, left just as it was when the family were living there. It must have been lovely for the royal children to have the freedom of the grounds and the beach where they could play safely, away from the public gaze, as they were growing up. Phil always livens up his lessons (he is a retired headmaster) with a test and prizes.
Two members of Phil's family are running in the London Marathon tomorrow in support of the Roy Castle Trust, in memory of his daughter who sadly died of lung cancer at a very young age. So we gave him our raffle money to sponsor them.
We were pleased to welcome a new member who thoroughly enjoyed herself and said she is looking forward to coming back again next month.

Monday 1 April 2013

Dinas Rock Abseil - March 31st 2013

Yet another great day ! In a week of grey skies and bitingly cold winds, Sunday dawned bright and sunny, which lifted the mood even though we had cold feet. And, most importantly the day was dry.

Morgan helped all day unclipping ropes and sending them back up to the top after each abseiler had finished.

Here, the first group are getting the harnesses and helmets on - much nervous laughter and silly remarks.

We can only stand and cheer as the brave souls descend at varying speeds.
Many thanks to all who came along to take part, to help or to watch and cheer. Without all of you there would be no event and also many thanks to the sponsors whose generosity raises much needed funds for British Lung Foundation Wales.
It's not too late to donate - every little helps so please do your bit and sponsor us now - THANK YOU !!
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Cwmcerrig Farm Shop

What a lovely day out we had at the Cwmcerrig Farm Shop at Cross Hands, near Carmarthen. It's a treat to see such attractive displays of fresh produce, cuts of meat and other delicious treats.

Then, after we had bought all we wanted to take home with us, off to the carvery for a delicious lunch.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Inhaler techniques

Our local pharmacist, Peter Littlewood, brought along more inhalers than we thought existed. We had a fascinating discussion and demonstration of inhaler techniques, varying for each type and with the contents of each device.
We all thought we were experts, as most of us have been doing this for so many years now. But Peter had something new for all of us. It just shows, it's never too late to learn. I, for one, have removed my inhalers from my bedroom to the bathroom. So after each use of an inhaler I now clean my teeth and rinse with mouth wash to get rid of all those nasty little droplets, or bits of powder, which settle in the mouth or throat. As Peter said, this stuff is intended for our lungs and the last place we want it to go is down into the stomach where it can eventually end up in our liver or kidneys, where it will do more harm than good - especially steroids. 

Great news at the end of the meeting, the hall committee has decided to drop the extra charge for use of the kitchen as from April 1st (hope it's not an April Fool !) That will save us £4.00 per booking, which is not to be sneezed at.

Monday 18 February 2013

Respiratory Services in Neath Port Talbot

Fiona Reynolds, Head of Nursing & Community Services, Abertawe Bro Morganwg University Hospital, came to our group this month to talk about plans for the future of respiratory services in our area.
Over the last couple of years the nursing and physiotherapy team have been affected by long term sickness and that has affected the quality of the service they have been able to deliver. It was good to hear Fiona's plans to get back to the good service we had before all these problems started, with more people taking on duties within the respiratory team.
Fiona will pay us a return visit in October to see what has been achieved and to talk about where we need to go from there.

Monday 11 February 2013

Swansea Jack is on his way to Wembley

I made Swansea Jack when our team joined the Premiere League with high hopes that he would join the boys on their way to glory.
And now he's

on his way to Wembley !

Saturday 9 February 2013

Abseil at Dinas Rock

   Do you have a       
   head for heights ?

If so, why not head for the heights and abseil Dinas Rock at Pontneathvaughan

On Easter Sunday, 31st March 2013
From 10.30am until 4.00pm
With many thanks to Call of the Wild for running the
event and the Dulais Valley Independent Ambulance Service for giving first aid cover
in support of
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!Breathe Easy Neath Valley and British Lung Foundation Wales
for more information contact us on
01639 700140 or Breathe Easy Neath Valley

 Once again we are holding our annual abseil event in Pontneathvaughan in the Neath Valley in South Wales. It's a lovely location to spend Easter - waterfalls and walks, lovely pubs for meals and the Gower is close by for glorious landscapes and beaches. Why not visit us for Easter, abseil for charity and have a great few days while you are here - it's a lovely part of the country !