A 71-year-old East Dunbartonshire man, who was forced to sleep in a chair for two years because he couldn’t breathe when he lay down, is hailing an innovative NHS treatment plan for “giving him his life back”.
Ken Rutherford, who has suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for three years, is now back in his bed and sleeping well thanks to medics monitoring his breathing remotely.
Each night Ken sleeps with a mask, which gives him air and oxygen.
The information is relayed back to doctors at Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow, including Dr Chris Carlin, who first put Ken on the treatment.
The mask has a small machine attached which can blow air to increase the capacity of a patient’s breathing. Medics can see the readings from the machine and change its settings via an online portal.
Called Non-Invasive Ventilation, this new healthcare technology is being trialled in Glasgow.
“I think I am Dr Carlin’s star pupil!” said Ken, who has been married to Janice for 50 years and lives in Milngavie.
“Between last December and April, I was in hospital a total of 27 days.
“I was regularly brought in by emergency ambulance, often due to chest infections and complications.
“I was getting worse and that’s when I met Dr Carlin who offered to put me on a trial. That’s when I got my first full night’s sleep in years – six hours solid, which was amazing.
“Before that I had slept in a chair in the living room on and off for two years, but solidly for ten months. It became my best friend but I wasn’t sleeping properly and that made me tired and grumpy.
“When you don’t get a good sleep at night, you don’t want to do anything during the day and that’s how my life was for a long time.”
Janice can’t believe the difference in her husband since starting the trial.
She said: “Ken was always sleeping on and off in the day – I couldn’t get my hoovering done! He was eating, sleeping, eating, sleeping – that was all.
“Thanks to this trial and Dr Carlin, I feel I have got him back – in a good way.
“He is now looking forward to things and we are making plans again.
“It’s wee things like what we will do with the garden next year and it’s all down to him getting more sleep. We go out for lunch and for trips, which we hadn’t done for years.”
COPD has had a dramatic impact on the couple’s live. They even had to move from the house they had lived in for 50 years as there were too many stairs.
Ken said: “Janice had to call 999 for me on the day we moved and I ended up back in hospital again.
“It also happened on the day of our Golden Wedding anniversary.
“I am so glad I met Dr Carlin and started on the trial. Doctors and nurses at Gartnavel can monitor my sleeping and breathing at any time but they don’t do it all the time.
“Once I decided to have a nap in the afternoon and they called the house to check why it was in use ... it’s nice to know they are keeping an eye on me!
“I think this treatment could change other patients’ lives dramatically.
“I hear the equipment is cheaper for the NHS than a night in hospital so it makes sense financially too.”
The benefits enjoyed by Ken match the data from a large UK study published earlier this year.
It showed reduced hospital admissions for patients with severe COPD and high blood carbon dioxide levels when accessing NIV treatment.
According to an NHS spokesman, getting NIV treatment started and suited to a patient can be labour intensive, involve prolonged hospital stays and repeated hospital visits. However, once established, it can be very beneficial.
Dr Carlin said: “I’ve been really pleased with how well nocturnal NIV treatment has been able to help Ken’s symptoms, stabilise his COPD and reduce his admissions to hospital.
“We’re very excited by the early patient experience and our research data which is showing that we can safely provide NIV therapy to patients much more effectively and efficiently than we did before.
“This is delivery of evidence-based, realistic medicine, and it’s already improving patients’ symptoms, quality of life and healthcare costs.
“We’re aiming to publish the data soon so that other centres can consider adopting this approach.”