Shortness of Breath

Eero Sorila with camera in Antarctica

Living a healthy life changed totally in one day.

On Tuesday, July 12, 2022, I was repairing a tile floor in our back balcony. Suddenly, I was out of breath like a fish on dry land. This had never happened before in my life.

Being alarmed, I knew that something was seriously wrong with my lungs or heart. After visits to doctors, I remained in a state of suspense not knowing what was seriously wrong with my health.

In the hospital, a chest x-ray did not reveal the required details. On the same day, a CT scan was taken of my lungs. The lab technician informed me with an apologetic tone: “There is scarring in your lungs.” The results of the CT scan were sent to a respirologist.

On Wednesday, September 28th, accompanied by my wife, we arrived for an appointment to see the respirologist. “You have been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis” the doctor said regretfully.

My wife broke to tears. To see her sobbing was more painful to me than my diagnosis.

Followed by many breathing tests, my condition declined. When comparing the breathing test of April 14, 2023 to the one of Nov. 04, 2022, an alarming change for the worse had taken place.

For many months after the diagnosis, I was able to walk 16 city blocks with my wife. Now, with supplementary oxygen, to walk a quarter of a city block causes severe shortness of breath.

The medication to slow down the progression of the disease resulted in severe diarrhea and loss of appetite. Lowering the dosage of medication helped to settle my stomach, but my appetite did not return. Consequently, by eating smaller portions, I have become underweight.

Josephine and Eero Sorila
Josephine and Eero Sorila at a 2004 Christmas party.

It is my greatest pain as my disease progresses to feel so useless and to feel like a burden to my wife Josephine. She is my greatest help and comfort, but I wish she did not have to do so much.

I have been able to find some comfort and hope in reading, listening to classical music, my lovely wife Josephine and my many siblings (five of them) and their families, as well as friends who come to visit. I also wish to thank my respirologist, other health care professionals and support groups for their excellent care.

I have been fortunate to visit all seven continents, including Antarctica, during my lifetime with my camera, taking landscape photos around the world and publishing several travel books. Photography was a true passion. I now travel by reading the books of others. I am grateful that our central library in Vancouver, provides a service that delivers them to my door. After such a life though, I do sometimes feel like a bird in a cage.

My church community is also very important to me. While the home oxygen cylinders get taller and my life span gets shorter, songs like Amazing Grace and Abide with Me comfort my soul.

In closing, I wish that all my fellow pulmonary fibrosis sufferers are doing better than me.

Hopefully, further research to cure pulmonary fibrosis will be intensified through government funding and private money. Shortness of breath, as we all know, is a matter of life and death.

Submitted by Eero Sorila. Eero lives in Vancouver, B.C. He was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at age 77 in September 2022.

*Featured image: Eero Sorila with his old Graflex plate film camera in Antarctica, 2006.