Last year, Dudley CVS and Healthwatch Dudley worked with Dudley CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) to explore community support to people who are living with a wide range of respiratory conditions. In June we co-hosted an event to bring local people with breathing difficulties together and hosted weekly ‘Airtime’ sessions leading to the appointment of a new coordinator in September.
Airtime provides varied and interactive weekly activities including appropriate exercise, professional support from health experts and information and advice about keeping well. People who attend have fun too and also enjoy recreational activities including bingo, quizzes, music and craft activities which has proved invaluable for people with similar conditions to come together to support each other.
One gentleman, Charlie, has been a regular participant of Airtime since December 2016. When Charlie first arrived he was incredibly anxious. He had always worked hard for a living and had to forgo this passion when he received his diagnosis which also affected his mental health. He had lost his ‘sparkle’ and was on antidepressants. He was drinking and smoking heavily as a way to ‘blot it out’.
Our Airtime Coordinator ensured that she took the time to sit down with Charlie, listen to his story and to take a non-judgmental approach to his situation. She discussed with him the many benefits of the group, ensured he felt welcome when he first joined and promised to call him later in the week to check in. The Coordinator also encouraged other, more longstanding members of the group to support to make it easier for Charlie to return each week. We felt that he would become a valued and needed member of Airtime.
The outcome was that Charlie started attending Airtime regularly and continues to do so! Charlie has stopped smoking and really reduced his alcohol consumption. Charlie has also stopped his anxiety meds which he attributes solely to Airtime giving him renewed confidence.
Charlie has become a larger than life character in the group, is helpful, positive and very involved.
Recently Charlie has taken part in the People’s Network event where he championed the benefits of the group and also relayed his own personal experience. He also took a central role in our steering group with the CCG in order to help Airtime continue, which thanks to him and others, was a success.
“If it wasn’t for this group, I’d still be on antidepressants. I have a purpose and we have a laugh. It has changed my life.” Charlie, member of Airtime