Our Three Forefathers

There are 3 important gentlemen that were instrumental in creating our charity.  Without them, simply put, there would be no Breathing Matters.

1. Mr Balwant Tamhane

Balwant’s daughter is Manjiry Tamhane – Patron and co-founder of Breathing Matters.

Balwant died from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2008.  Manjiry says of her father, “He was the life and soul of any party. He was laid back, carefree, open-minded and adventurous. He came from a humble background, but worked and studied hard to provide a better life for his children and went on to become a Partner in a top London architectural firm.”

In the first 72 years of his life, Balwant was rarely ill. He hardly ever went to see a doctor and had never been admitted to hospital. He was fit, active and generally in good shape.

In the summer of 2008, Balwant started to have flu like symptoms, which was unusual for him.  These persisted and his breathing became laboured and wheezy. He was admitted to hospital and placed on oxygen. He was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; 5 weeks later he had died.

When the doctors diagnosed IPF, Manjiry went straight to the internet to search for information. Back in 2008, there was very little information available apart from a few obscure research papers from Japan and the US describing various theories and inconclusive results. Manjiry did find a US website called the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, but information in the UK was sorely lacking. She knew at the time something needed to be done about this and went straight to meet with Professor Geoffrey Laurent to see if she could help change this.

2. Professor Geoff Laurent

Professor Laurent was a founding member of Breathing Matters while he was Medical Director of the Centre for Respiratory Research.

Geoff Laurent was an acclaimed scientist and a globally renowned world class researcher on every aspect of respiratory health.  A lover of life, he was blessed with an ability to bring people together in the spirit of collaboration and innovation. His curiosity and intellect were infectious.

Having completed his Bachelor of Science degree with first class honours at the University of Western Australia where he was born, Geoff was driven to seek out the best scientific outcomes from across the world. He studied at the National Heart and Lung Institute/Royal Brompton Hospital London and eventually became Professor and Director of the Centre for Respiratory Research at UCL. Geoff published over 200 articles in international journals of biomedical research and was awarded the European Respiratory Society Presidential Award for his contribution to lung science. In 2006, he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and President of the British Association for Lung Research.  At UCL, Geoff established himself as one of the world leaders in chronic lung disease research, focusing primarily on lung fibrosis.

When Manjiry Tamhane came to see him in 2009 to talk about how she could help the world of pulmonary fibrosis, Geoff used his collaborative skills and was inspirational in getting together a team to create the first UK based charity that focussed on lung fibrosis and infection research – which was to become Breathing Matters.

We are sad to report that Professor Laurent passed away in 2018, but he is fondly remembered at Breathing Matters and his spirit thrives within us all.

3. Lawrence Matz

Lawrence Matz was an inaugural supporter of Breathing Matters.

Lawrence had a unique gift of being able to make everyone feel as though they were the special one. The life and soul of any party, he would always stand out in the crowd. Nothing was too much for him and for his wife Gloria, his two boys Mark and Adam, family and friends – he would do just about anything for them. He lived every day like it was his last, cramming more into his all too brief time than most of us can expect to achieve in a lifetime. He enriched so many lives with his vibrancy, charm and love.

In 2009, Lawrence was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.  He built up a strong bond of mutual respect with his consultant Jo Porter and wanted to help with her passion of creating a charity for research into pulmonary fibrosis.  During 2010, he regularly met with the Breathing Matters strategy and build team to give his help and advice, and he and his wife Gloria attended our launch in February 2011.

Unfortunately, having been relatively stable for nearly 2 years, Lawrence started to decline very quickly and it was clear that his own lungs would not keep going for much long despite treatment. In July 2011, Lawrence was needing oxygen for 24 hours a day. He was accepted on to the urgent transplant list, but very sadly, a transplant did not become available in time – 6 weeks later he died.  Jo and the team promised to fight on towards a cure for this cruel disease.

As engraved on his memorial stone, Lawrence taught us all the true meaning of courage.  Over the next few years, Lawrence’s loving family and friends raised £45K for Breathing Matters in his memory, and this initiated our fundraising effort towards that promised cure.