The Irish Times
DUBLIN, IRELAND?Not many people have heard of alpha-1 and it was new to me until about nine years ago when my brother died. Alpha-1 antitrypsin is an important protein produced by the liver that acts as a protection for the lungs from the destructive actions of lung illnesses and exposures to environmental factors such as tobacco smoke. People with alpha-1 are lacking in this protein.
It is a genetic condition. The doctors reckon that if both parents are carriers of the condition, one in four of their offspring will have alpha-1. Three out of my 10 brothers and sisters have it.
Three of us also have haemochromatosis, which is also an inherited disease. This can also affect the liver. Everyone else gets a few bob from their parents, but we got two diseases. All four of my children are carriers of the disease, but none of their partners are. So they are in the clear.
I have to admit that I used to be a very heavy smoker and five years after I was diagnosed with alpha-1, I was diagnosed with emphysema. I suppose at 62 I can’t really run down the road anyway, but I find that I can’t really exert myself without getting short of breath.