Wednesday, 18. November 2020
Since 2018 Eberhard Jordan has set himself a personal exercise challenge for World COPD Day every year. The aim is not only to stop his own COPD advancing. He also wants to raise awareness of severe, chronic lung disease. Even though 6,000,000 people in Germany have diagnosed COPD, along with 400,000 in Austria and 400,000 in Switzerland, the majority of people have never heard it or hugely underestimate how it can affect a person’s life. Eberhard Jordan has been living with end-stage COPD since 2014. Starting with baby steps, like the short walk from home to the bus stop, little by little he managed to drag his health back from the brink. He did his first challenge in 2018 by climbing the 343 steps of the St Stephen’s Tower in Vienna, his home city. He chose this particular challenge specifically because climbing stairs is one of the greatest challenges for people with COPD. For the COPD-Challenge 2019 he climbed the 776 steps of the Danube Tower in Vienna. For 2020 he has his sights on the 843 steps of the Millennium Tower. He is taking on these challenges to prove that you can still lead an active life with COPD.
Eberhard Jordan: Before I myself was diagnosed with COPD, I had never even heard of the disease, let alone that there was a World Day dedicated to it. Nowadays, World COPD Day shapes my life even months in advance, because I want to set myself a new challenge every year. I put a lot of organisation and training into this day. My one-man action in 2018 has since grown into a club. We are already thinking ahead and have set ourselves the goal of involving more rehab facilities in Austria in the COPD Challenge for 2021. Then we want to make a movement out of it which reaches people with COPD in other German-speaking countries. In 2022 we plan to hold COPD challenges in Germany and Switzerland too. We are delighted when any lung rehab facility or lung sports group joins our movement and are pleased to be able to support them with information and experience.
Eberhard Jordan: Ambitious? Yes it is! But it is not too ambitious. I won’t push myself too far with this challenge. It isn’t a good idea to push yourself too far, because that’s not good for your body or your health in general. I like setting myself a goal and working towards achieving it. And once I have done so, I set myself the next goal. And, of course, I set my sights higher each time. I love a challenge. I see it as a sport. That’s the attitude I have. That’s why I step up my goal with each new challenge. And experience from previous challenges and training helps me. I know what I can and can’t manage. My body remembers this kind of exertion and adjusts to accommodate. My COPD challenges are not about getting there quickly or setting a new record. I want to manage it to show that you can still get on with your life, even with very severe COPD. You can still be active, even with COPD. I know from experience that going up three flights of stairs can appear to be an impossible feat. But you can do it with training. With sport, you wrestle back your freedom and independence. The worst thing someone with COPD can do is let themselves be dragged into a pit of hopelessness, inactivity and immobility.
Eberhard Jordan: I prepare all year for the challenge. The closer the day is, the more intensively I train and raise the bar. At the moment I only have one day a week off from training. That’s on Fridays. On Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I train at home. My programme takes about two and a half hours and involves endurance, strength and respiratory training. On Tuesdays I focus specifically on climbing stairs. I go with my physiotherapist, and at the moment I go up and down the 20 storeys of the first high rise in Vienna twice. Everything very, very slowly. From next week onwards I will do the 20 storeys three times. On Sundays I go for a 10-km walk through the Prater, the amusement park in Vienna. It takes me about two hours. So, during the week I am quite busy with sport because I enjoy it and it has a positive effect on body and soul. To improve general fitness, you don’t have to do as much sport as I do. One to one and a half hours of sport two to three times a week is fine. If exercise is fun, you will automatically increase your stamina.
Eberhard Jordan: We had to make a few adjustments. That started with training. So far, my training for the challenges has been part of my rehab training. Because of coronavirus and the restrictions associated with it, the training group had to stop. I also found it quite stressful to be constantly reminded that I was in a high-risk group. Anyone with chronic lung disease is wary of viral diseases, severe colds, flu, and also infection with coronavirus. You always have to consider how to protect yourself and which risks you can take. The round-the-clock reporting of the virus and then being told day in, day out that you are especially at risk puts a lot of pressure on those affected. I follow all the hygiene guidelines. But people with chronic illnesses also have to be able to lead a “normal” life, despite the virus. I feel as if people with chronic illnesses have been pushed into oblivion by public opinion. It’s as if we are treated like outcasts. It’s not a nice feeling.
But coronavirus has meant not only changes for me personally but also for the COPD challenge. In parallel to my challenge in Vienna, another is being held in Innsbruck at the Bergisel Ski Jump. This involves not just people with COPD, but also people who have had COVID-19.
Eberhard Jordan was diagnosed with COPD in 2000. He has had stage 4 COPD since 2014. Since 2017, he has been writing a blog on the topic of Active Living with COPD. He also has a second blog with updates on his myCOPD Challenge campaign. On this blog he works to increase public awareness of the serious lung disease COPD. In 2020 Jordan also collated his experience of life with COPD in a book “Hoch hinaus mit COPD” (Aim high with COPD). It is available in local bookshops and online by mail order.
Notes: Photos kindly provided by Eberhard Jordan. Photographer: Christoph Hopf
The statements made in the interview are the individual views of the interviewee. They do not necessarily reflect the PARI view or the general state of science.
An article written by the PARI BLOG editorial team.