Jim Lilley, 67 from East Belfast, is a retired scientist and has attended our Inspire Choir with his wife Roisin since the in-person rehearsals on the Dublin Road.
‘The great thing about the choir was meeting with people and talking about how they were handling their conditions, what they were up to. The chat before and after was so useful!’
‘Plus, it really does help with your breathing. We do exercises at the beginning of each session and I have noticed an improvement in how long I can hold a breath.’
Jim has a chequered medical history and suffers from diabetes, has had two strokes and heart failure. His first stroke struck 5 years ago;
‘I was chairing a meeting at work in Belfast and started to feel really ropey. I was delivering the Annual Report but as I was talking, it didn’t feel like my voice anymore, it didn’t feel like me. I went home and then straight to the hospital.’
Following his stroke, John took part in NICHS’s Breathing Better and Taking Control programmes;
‘You get these diagnoses, but no one actually ever tells you how to cope with it. Talking to people in these programmes who have been there, they can suggest ways to manage difficulties and how to live with your condition. Then, later on, you can do the same for new people when they come along. You pass it forward.’
On top of everything else, last year, just as lockdown struck, Jim was diagnosed with multiple myeloma;
‘With my diagnosis, I’ve had to shield. I haven’t been out in over a year. I’ve only left the house for medical appointments. We have had to be so careful. Prior to this, my wife and I would spend our holidays walking in the Alps. But now I’ve spent a whole year just walking around the house and I find I have less and less energy.’
‘I never thought I’d sing in a choir with my voice. But it’s fun, it’s enjoyable. It keeps me going.’
‘My aim is to get back to the mountains.'
About the Inspire Choir
We established the ‘Inspire Choir’ in 2018. Originally, the choir began as a 10-week pilot to determine what positive effects singing could have on sufferers of long-term respiratory conditions but 3 years on, it is bigger and better than ever!
During lockdown, concerned about the mental and physical effects that shielding was having on our service users, we moved the choir online, doubled the rehearsals, and opened it up to all clients.
Pauline Millar, Head of Respiratory at NICHS, says; ‘The results of the original pilot of our Inspire Choir were nothing short of inspiring. After just 10 weeks, 72% of choristers tested found that their speech had improved and 67% noted a boost in their mental health. Not only that, we saw considerable improvements in the group’s sleeping, anxiety levels, chest tightness and ability to walk.’
‘As well as improving lung function, we saw such social and mental health improvement. We knew then that the choir could provide a lifeline of support for our clients in lockdown.’
Pauline says; ‘The improvement in some of our clients has been incredible. They have gone from being extremely breathless, depressed and lonely to coming along to choir with the biggest smiles on their faces.’
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