Trish Verrier is tackling her COPD diagnosis with optimism and her signature hugs. To see this vibrant 65 year old with hair as red as her scooter and a smile that lights up the room, one doesn’t detect any signs of the sadness or pain she’s endured. Nor does one hear many complaints – which says a lot considering her serious, and sometimes scary, lung condition: COPD.
Trish grew up in Thunder Bay, where she had suffered neglect and abuse at the hands of her father, leaving no mystery as to why by 18 year of age, she ran away to Vancouver.
Determined to forge a better life, Trish vowed once she had enough money she would help her mother come out West as well, but her mother passed before she could.
Sadly no sooner had Trish’s new life started, when bad health began to hold her back. As it happened, Trish spent much of her adult life in and out of hospital beds, struggling to manage her pain, and by her forties, to cope with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and related breathing difficulties.
“My life was no cakewalk, that’s for sure. And I didn’t always feel as content as I feel now,” she said. “In fact I could get pretty low. But one day a few years ago now, I decided to look at my life differently. I remember when it happened. It was November and bitterly cold. I was at my local clinic and this homeless man wandered in. He didn’t have a coat and he was clearly freezing. I don’t why, but something triggered. I began to see all my struggles as victories. I realized I had a lot to give and no time to lose. As a result my world has become a much happier place.”
"A few years ago now, I decided to look at my life differently... I realized I had a lot to give and no time to lose. As a result my world has become a much happier place.”
Since that November night, Trish has visited more than 100 stores and succeeded in raising thousands of dollars’ worth of donations in warm clothing and food for the homeless, and her work continues today. She constantly encourages friends and neighbours to donate what they can, and herself crochets scarves for women in need. She has also established a program she calls ‘Hugs for Life.’
“Everyone needs a hug,” said Trish. “Even if it’s from somehow they don’t know.” Through ‘Hugs for Life’ Trish aims to provide some comfort and cheer (along with small stuffed animals) to patients alone in hospital, not unlike she often was for so many years.
When one talks with Trish it’s easy to forget she has a debilitating lung condition which can make even walking across the room an impossible chore. To get around Trish relies on her electric scooter, and to breathe, on a range of medications and inhalers.
“To be honest, my COPD can be very scary. It makes me remember the fear I had as a child; the fear of not having family to protect me, the fear of not being able to breathe – but that same feeling is a reminder to be thankful for every day I’m still here, and for all the kindness I receive.”
Trish may not have relatives to watch over her, but she is very grateful for the friends she does have – including her COPD support team.
She calls her respiratory nurse, Beth Hutchins, a lifesaver, “I called Beth for help recently and she came right over. If Beth hadn’t come and found out I had taken too many pills, I would have died. I am so thankful.”
It felt like our visit had barely begun, when Trish leaned over to give me one of her hallmark hugs. She hopes her story will inspire others. “I’m proof it’s never too late to make a difference,” she said.
Then off she motored, into the pouring rain – one truly inspiring lady with red hair, a red scooter and a great big green umbrella.
The story above was provided by BC Lung Association Health Promoter Tracey Jirak. Read more of Tracey's stories on our blog.