Despite a serious lung disease, Cannonville resident Peter Moore wants to show what can be done and send out a message of inspiration when he tackles the river mile at the SPAR Summer Festival this month.
The 54-year-old will take part in the disabled mile for the first time when the festival takes place in his home village outside Port Elizabeth on February 25 and 26.
Moore, who grew up in Welkom in the Free State, said he wanted, as far as possible, to encourage members of the public to sign up as organ donors.
“There are so many young people struggling because of the lack of donors in the country. We have one of the worst percentages of organ donors in the world.”
Although he didn’t know it at the time, Moore’s problems started 24 years ago when he ran into a room to close a chlorine gas cylinder that had been inadvertently opened.
He was working at a crèche in the Sandton Health and Racket Club in Johannesburg and took his actions so the children in the play area could be evacuated.
“Unfortunately I could not hold my breath long enough and as a result my lungs got burnt by the chlorine gas.”
Moore was told it would probably only affect him when he was older and about eight years ago he started experiencing problems.
“In short, within two years I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and spent many months in hospital. I was medically boarded and was permanently on oxygen at home.”
With a lung capacity that functions between 18 and 24 per cent, Moore said simple actions such as brushing his teeth would leave him exhausted.
“I find it difficult to explain, but you just don’t get oxygen. You breathe in but you don’t get air so you basically suffocate and you just don’t know when you will get your breath back.”
Two years ago Moore said he decided to start a comprehensive programme to try to manage his condition.
“Just by tensing my muscles and doing breathing exercises, I managed within two months to walk on the treadmill for two minutes without stopping.
“Then I did a bit more every day. It wasn’t all plain sailing but I never gave up and have lost a total of 34kg. Now I can walk between 3km and 5km every day.”
Although he has lost enough weight to be listed for a transplant, he said due to lack of finances he no longer had private medical aid and state hospitals did not do lung transplants.
Moore said swimming the river mile it would be the biggest challenge he would face as a COPD sufferer.
“Swimming is one of the hardest things I can do. I spend most of my life feeling as if I’m drowning a little bit at a time.
“Some days are better than others, but the feeling of not getting enough oxygen is always there.”
Moore said he would swim with his oxygen machine in a canoe next to him, with the flow of air being controlled by a friend dependent on his needs.