Moving testimonies from patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease have been collated in a new photo book as part of a project that Walsall Healthcare Respiratory Consultant Dr Max Matonhodze has been involved in.
Black County Lungs is a unique collaboration between Multistory, Dutch photographer Corinne Noordenbos and patients which explores the collaborations between artists, researchers and scientists to understand the human condition.
As well as Dr Matonhodze, Corinne worked with experts from Public Health and partners such as Sandwell Community Respiratory Service. She also attended ‘Breathe Easy’ groups and British Lung Foundation Singing Groups. She wanted to explore the connection between the Black Country and “black lungs” and look at the impact of such health conditions in this area.
Patients were recorded and photographed in hospital as well as their own homes and spoke openly and honestly about living with COPD to feature in the book designed by Ben Weaver. They included David, aged 74, from Willenhall. He said:
“I used to work as an insurance man and I was 20 years on the road. There is nothing better than when you’re on your own and think “Oh well, I’ll just have a smoke.”
I can’t drive on my own, I can’t bend; my wife has to do all the cooking, ironing…I used to make the tea. I don’t think people realise how it changes your life…. Don’t do it. Don’t smoke. Get rid of them otherwise you will end up as bad as me.”
David died in August 2017.
Dr Matonhodze, who has worked with Walsall Healthcare for 15 years, said: “Black Country Lungs has given patients a voice; it was their chance to speak up and tell us all how life is with COPD. And life with COPD is debilitating, it is heartbreaking.
“Their words make such an impact as do the photographs that show them struggling through their lives. It is my wish that this book could be available in all GP surgeries – anywhere that it can make people stop and think about the condition. I would certainly like young people who take up smoking to have a good look at it because it’s a frightening glimpse into the future as smoking is a major factor in COPD.”