In 1976, Michele Caskey was asked to join the BC Lung Association, then called the Tuberculosis Christmas Seal Society. Forty-two years later and Michele is still a dedicated Director and integral part of the BC Lung Association family. She recently spoke with us about her personal connections to lung disease and the lung health issues that are impacting her community today.
How did you first hear about the BC Lung Association?
I moved to Grand Forks with my husband in 1969. A couple years after moving, I was approached by two volunteers of the Tuberculosis Christmas Seal Society. They were planning on retiring from volunteering and asked if I would take their place.
Hearing the word tuberculosis (TB) had an immediate impact on me. My uncle had TB and was treated at Vancouver General Hospital. I remember seeing rows upon rows of beds there, almost resembling an army barrack. My uncle also spent time in a TB sanitarium, and unfortunately passed away shortly after.
Remembering my uncle, I decided I wanted to get involved with this society.
When did the name change to the BC Lung Association?
The name changed during my first Director’s meeting in Vancouver in 1976, the year I joined. I remember Douglas Parker was the CEO, and he even offered me a personal tour of the BC Lung Association offices.
Are there certain lung health issues impacting your community of Grand Forks?
We get a lot of dust in the valley which contributes to poor air quality. Additionally, due to the geography of Grand Forks, we’ve been really impacted by wood smoke. Between the environmental inversions, wood smoke from home owners who do not burn properly, improper agricultural burns, and climate change, we’ve been getting more and more smoke each year. Those factors, coupled with the forest fires from our area and Washington State to the south of us, contribute to making the air quality in our summers really poor. Last summer we went three weeks without being able to see the sun due to the smoke.
The poor air quality affects everyone, but especially those with a lung disease such as asthma or COPD.
Is there anything that people can do to try to help the air quality?
Burn smart! I’m part of the Grand Forks Air Quality Committee and we created stricter by-laws regarding wood burning stoves. Improper use of these stoves contributes to poor air quality, so as a community we need to educate and encourage people to burn smart. As well, the Boundary Air Quality Committee that I was involved with had created an Air Quality Management Plan. A lot of the industry in our area has worked hard to follow this plan and improve upon their air quality, so it’s necessary to continue this important work.
There are a lot of different factors contributing to air pollution, but if we all do our part, we can have a positive impact on the air we all breathe.