A singing group in Bangor is helping people living with chronic respiratory conditions to stay positive when breathlessness restricts their lives.
The Bangor Singing for Lung Health group opened in May 2016 after a successful trial of the programme in Rhyl.
The sessions, held at the Community Centre in Penrhosgarnedd, are facilitated by singing performer and teacher Jenny Pearson who works for the Welsh National Opera and Boys Aloud. The group is also supported by the Respiratory Nurse Specialists from Ysbyty Gwynedd, pharmacy, occupational therapy team and the British Lung Foundation.
The programme is managed by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s (BCUHB) Professional Lead of Art Therapies, Christine Eastwood, who piloted the first trial in 2013.
She said: “Each session is a composition of postural work, relaxation, singing related breathing exercises, simple vocal exercises and singing of an enjoyable and broad song repertoire.
“The sessions not only offer enjoyment and fun but they also reduce stress, counteracting anxiety and depression.
“They also provide individuals with gentle physical exercise and physical relaxation and they can release any physical tension.
“Singing in a group is a wonderful tool, as it offers ways to exercise respiratory function whilst people enjoy themselves and connect with others.
“I am pleased that the Health Board has made this program accessible to people in all BCU areas.”
As a Respiratory Specialist Nurse, Olwen Davies, sees many patients with various lung conditions, including COPD, asthma, bronchiectasis and pulmonary fibrosis.
She said: “We are pleased we can offer ‘Singing for Lung Health’ as an ongoing part of our patient’s treatment plan which is a recognised therapy and researched based intervention.
“Patients who attend these sessions are doing far more than ‘just singing’.
“I have found that the group has been a source of friendship, purpose, enjoyment and support to many.
“It provides a safe, friendly environment to meet, relax, interact, focus and engage with others who have similar health problems.
“Many who attend the sessions have said they have helped with their self-management and breathing techniques.
The service has been embraced by patients who commented that it was improving their breathing, helping their management of the condition and lifting depression.
Gillian Saxon, 63, from Llangefni, who has been diagnosed with Bronchiectasis, said: “With my condition it is a real struggle to breathe which impacts on my sleeping pattern.
“Coming to this group has made me realise I am not on my own and I get the support that I need.
“I really enjoy coming each week and it’s amazing how much my breathing has improved through the exercises we do.”
Pat Roberts, 71, from Bangor, who also lives with Bronchiectasis, added: “I really was housebound before coming to this group.
“It was a struggle to go anywhere as I found it so hard to catch my breath but since coming to the sessions I get out and about a lot more.
“I can even sing in church better now! It has brought a lot of pleasure back into my life.”
Photo: The singing sessions are facilitated by singing performer and teacher Jenny Pearson who works for the Welsh National Opera and Boys Aloud.