Monday, 8 December 2014
Roger Lever - Alpha1 and Still Breathing
On a recent trip to Glencoe filming for my 1000 Faces Scotland project, my friend Ash and I stayed at the wonderful Clachaig Hotel which nestles just off the main road near the bottom of the glen. Our evenings were spent in the bar eating, drinking and meeting visitors and locals. One evening a good looking young guy with a broad Highland accent came up to me and asked if I would be interested in filming his friend. “She’s just over here. I can introduce you.” We wandered across the stone floored room to a group of young people who were chatting away. “Lindsay, these are the guys doing the 1000faces project” “Lindsay’s a very special person” said the young guy. In front of me stood a shortish very good looking young woman with frizzy medium length blond hair dressed in the classical highland Berghaus mountain gear everyone seems to wear in the Highlands these days. She was also wearing breathing apparatus in the form of plastic tubing inserted into both nostrils. Her big smile greeted us and before we knew it we had organised for her to come into the Visitor Centre next day for a film shoot.
Next day arrived and Lindsay appeared on queue with her friend. We made the normal preps for the filmshoot and sat Lindsay down, hooked her up to the lapel mic and introduced her to the aims of our project. There she was in front of the cameras smiling as she does with her tubing in situ. “Now Lindsay” said Ash, “is there anything you would like to talk about that you feel the rest of the world should know about you?” For the next 15 minutes Lindsay talked about herself and her life with Alpha1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Syndrome. Ash and I stood there speechless jaws hanging whilst Lindsay described how this rare condition had transformed her life, how it took so long to diagnose, her life in a hospice preparing to die at any point, how she attempted suicide on more than one occasion and how she then decided to take this debilitating condition and deal with it in her way.
At the age of 45 Lindsay has been a police inspector, suffered severe injuries in a car accident, attended Glasgow school of Art becoming a top model, having 5 children by 2 fathers and diagnosed with Alpha1 after her fifth child. This condition essentially destroys lung function. There is no treatment except the possibility of a double lung transplant which may extend her life for a short time should she survive such a very complex risky operation.
Brought up in the Highlands amongst the most amazing mountain scenery and with mountaineering in her blood, Lindsay decided to take her life by the scruff, reduce her drug intake to a minimum and start climbing again. ‘climbing!!’, grade 1 rock faces at that, when she struggles with 22% lung capacity doing what you and I do daily without even thinking about it. Give her a sheer rock face however and with her oxygen supply she spiderwomans her way up them with apparent ease. How on earth does she do that? She does things normal people would not even contemplate. ‘A crazy woman’ some people might say but being crazy has kept her alive and not just living! Lindsay awaits her call up for a lung transplant knowing that she could suddenly deteriorate and die at any time.