COAL CITY - Black lung patients struggle with the everyday task of breathing, so their day-to-day tasks are altered after their diagnosis.
Rickie Coalson, 56, of Coal City said he gradually noticed that it was becoming tougher for him to breathe. "It got to the point where I would start having panic attacks when I would get real short of breath."
Coalson was forced to retire after almost four decades on the job because of his disease. After 28 years underground, Gary Hairston, 59, was forced to do the same. "It's a terrible feeling, you trying to get air and you can't get none," said Hairston. "You're thinking, what can I do? I can't even holler."
Neither man ever thought he would be the suffering from this disease. "You know it's always in your mind when you go in the mines," explained Coalson, "But in this part of the country if you want to make a good living, I've even seen people go out of college and go in the mines to make the good money."
To help with their breathing, day-to-day life has become slower-paced for these former miners. "I know everything I do, I [need to] do it in moderation," said Hairston. "I don't ever push myself."
Coalson said some of the safety technology available to him at the time did not work properly and even made doing his job harder. "They give you masks and stuff to wear but now they tell us they were no good," said Coalson. "After a while, when your breathing gets hard, it's even hard to wear them because it restricts your breathing."
Both men say despite their hardships, they do not regret being coal miners and would still be in the mines if they did not have black lung.