I love to challenge myself, to push the limits of my capabilities. I love to hear stories from other people who do the same. In recent times I’ve heard many people talk about pushing their bodies to the limit. “I’ve done an Ironman”, “I’ve done an ultra – marathon”, “I’ve climbed My Everest”.
They’re all great stories and those experiences last a lifetime, they also build resilience and toughen the mind. It is said these events are examples of the body operating in extreme environments and maybe it is. But part of me feels like saying, could you do this with 30% lung function? Could you do anything with a severe lung disease? When people talk about operating in extreme environments, the question I’d ask is – how extreme is an environment which you can remove yourself from at any time?
Operating in an extreme environment is part of life for respiratory patients. The ability to breathe is not taken for granted, it’s cherished every hour of every day. The battle for any quality of life can be physically and emotionally devastating. We cannot choose to remove ourselves from this environment, it’s our norm!
Of course, I can say this knowing there will be someone reading this thinking – you’re probably an ex-smoker, you get what you deserve! I’ve grown tired of this attitude, does this mean anyone who makes a poor lifestyle choice deserves a chronic disease?
The growing interest in studying how the human body performs in extreme environments is interesting. The Journal of Human Performance in Extreme Environments is a website which has many different types of studies about what happens to the human body under certain extreme conditions. Again, are these really extreme environments?
- Settings that possess extraordinary physical, psychological, and interpersonal demands that require significant human adaption for survival and performance!
- Example environments include space, high-altitudes, Polar regions, deserts, underground, open ocean and underwater. Furthermore, a number of extreme activities occur in these environments including a variety of extreme sports!
It’s fair to say extreme environments are relative to your everyday life and what is your norm! What may be extreme for some is a walk in the park for others. If you want to talk to me about the challenge of a Marathon or Ironman event, then first allow me to remove 2/3’s of your lungs or restrict your capacity to breathe by 70%. Welcome to my world!
Severe COPD Symptoms
The point of this article is not to undervalue anyone’s achievement, it’s to value the achievements of those who just fight to breathe. It’s to encourage researchers in this space to look outside the box. If we are really interested in how the human body performs under extreme conditions, then study severe respiratory patients. Maybe I’m just a desperate patient clutching at straws, but is there anything more extreme than losing your ability to breathe?
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), my chosen disease is tragically underfunded! It is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.A and number 150th on the NIH funding list! Studying COPD patients who constantly live in extreme environments may just help find a cure as well as answer questions about how the body performs under these extreme conditions.
I’ll happily put my hand up to be a lab rat if it means we can move closer to curing this disease. In the meantime, I’ll keep operating in my extreme environment. I’ll keep competing in marathons, ironman and anything else which comes my way. I’ll keep fundraising for research dollars.
Next time you’re competing in your extreme environment, imagine how you’d be going if you couldn’t breathe.Think you’ve experienced racing in extreme environments? Come and race me in mine, if you’re game! Come and race me for charity!