Faces of COPD: Kristen Willard, '...there is someone here who can help you.'
Posted on November 28, 2017 |
Kristen shares what she and her team do at the COPD Foundation, what drives her and what advice she would give to people living with COPD or caring for a loved one affected by this devastating disease. Read on to learn more.
As the Vice President of Population Health & Care Delivery, Kristen and her team “connect patients and healthcare providers to resources that can improve their lives and healthcare delivery, respectively.”
“Every day,” explains Kristen, “we interact with a variety of individuals—physicians and respiratory therapists, nurses and pharmacists—and people with COPD and those who care about them deeply. I’ve been with the COPD Foundation (COPDF) for 2.5 years and it’s an honor to do this work every day.”
She first learned about COPD when a family member told Kristen her father had been diagnosed with emphysema. “I will never forget that moment. I felt dazed and scared.”
Her father had a lot of support, though, says Kristen, and this made a big difference in his quality of life. “Thankfully, my father had an invested and supportive care team who ensured he used the medications that worked best for him, referred him to pulmonary rehabilitation and, when appropriate, end-of-life care.”
Kristen’s father was diagnosed at a time when the COPD Foundation had not yet been formed, when resources were scarce and clear support systems were not in place. This is a big part of what drives Kristen’s work at the Foundation.
“I cannot imagine how much more we as a family would know now had COPDF been in existence when my father was diagnosed. I hope to make him proud every day and contribute to projects and programs that improve the lives of people like my father and his mother, who also died of COPD.”
Kristen wants people to know that “more and more every year, COPD is not a death sentence” and help is there for those who need it. “Even as the child of a father with COPD, I was unaware of the variety of measures available to COPD patients to improve their lives and achieve their goals.”
She is “regularly astonished by the power of exercise, community, adherence to medications and device regimens—and just how substantially these can improve or maintain improvements in those with COPD.”
Education and support are key and that’s where the COPD Foundation comes in. As Kristen explains, “there is someone here who can help you. Whether you have COPD yourself, love someone who does, want to advocate for change or learn to maximize your patient care, there is a place and resources for you within COPDF. It’s important to know you are not alone.”
If you are living with COPD or have a loved one who is, Kristen’s advice is to “talk about your disease and your experiences. Don’t be ashamed of your illness.”
She firmly believes “the more we talk as a community and share our thoughts and needs, the more we will establish ourselves as a group that demands the attention and support of the global community—a world where few recognize COPD as a public health crisis.”
She encourages everyone affected by this disease to “live and thrive with COPD, with or without oxygen, with or without a history of smoking, new to the community or a COPD360social Answer Oracle. We are all in this together.”