It is with huge sadness that we announce the passing of Isabel Saraiva – our strong, kind and inspirational ELF Chair from 2017-2020. Isabel led ELF with passion, integrity and a real desire to make the world a better place for people with lung conditions.

Every time Isabel spoke, she made a change. Her personal stories and her powerful testimonies could alter the feeling in a room and make sure the patient experience was front and centre.

We can only thank Isabel for all she brought to ELF and her impact on the work with ERS. And we will remember her with huge affection. Some of her passions and achievements included: advocating for smoking cessation; the role of women in respiratory health – which led to our COPD and women art competition; and air quality – she was the only patient who spoke at the first WHO air quality and health conference in 2018.

We send our love and wishes to her husband Luis and the rest of her family. In particular, her grandchildren, who filled her life with joy.

We include here some comments and memories from colleagues in ELF and ERS:

“It is so sad to hear about the loss of a previous ELF Chair, Isabel. Such sudden losses remind us how vulnerable we are and how important it is to have patients who, despite their illness, spend their precious time helping others. Isabel had a huge impact on what ELF is and how it works. She will be an example of a patient leader and she will be remembered in all we do moving forward for limitless breath.”

Dimitris Kontopidis, ELF Chair 2023-2026

“I will miss Isabel. She brough warmth and presence to a conversation, and she was always ready to create attention around the patient cause. She had a big heart for the patient cause and lung health and did not discriminate in her engagement regardless of power and status. What I like about her most was that she could change her perspective. She was once a smoker, but recognized the consequences of her choice and became a very impactful and effective speaker on tobacco control. The authenticity that drove Isabel’s engagement was also key to her success as a person, patient advocate and leader. Her accessibility, openness and experience gave her voice weight, her arguments power and influence . I’m very grateful for knowing her and for everything she gave to the lung health community.” 

Kjeld Hansen, ELF Chair 2020-2023

“Isabel was always available to promote the prevention of respiratory disease and advice for the population and patients. We have lost a wonderful person and a brave woman, but her dedication, sensitivity and generosity to the respiratory community will remain.

My dear friend, you will remain forever in my heart.”

Carlos Cordeiro, ERS Past President

“Isabel supported patients, but also medical and allied health care professionals in their attempt to innovate respiratory health care. She was an active listener, stimulating scientists and professionals to go the extra mile for their patients. Her contributions were appreciated by Societies as well as in regional and European projects.”

Thierry Troosters, ERS President 2019-2020

“A widely respected patient advocate and leader, Isabel will be sadly missed not only for her work with our Portuguese member group but as a former member of the EU-PFF Board – her work with us and with the European Lung Foundation was dedicated to respiratory patients – a sad loss for the advocacy community.”

Steve Jones, European Pulmonary Fibrosis Federation (EU-PFF) President

“We send our condolences to Isabel’s family and to our patient community. Isabel will be sadly missed and remains a highly respected patient advocate.”

Lovexair, Spain

“We would like to express our condolences on the death of Dr Isabel Saraiva. Her work set an example and made a mark in the fight against respiratory diseases on the national and international scene. On behalf of GRESP, we send our sincere thanks for all the availability and support she always showed the group.”

GRESP, Portugal

“Isabel was a true “grande dame” and a heart of the patient community. Thanks to Isabel, the international vision of COPD made a step forward. She was very simple to communicate with and at the same time very intelligent and very strong. We are sad and we think about Isabel.”

French Federation of Associations of Respiratory Patients with Respiratory Insufficiency or Handicap (FFAAIR)

“I am so sad to learn the passing of Isabel. She was such a strong woman with a big lovely heart. I have learned from her what a human touch is, and could be, in our professional lives. I feel lucky that I had her as a collegue and a friend in my life. I will miss her a lot.”

Arzu Yorgancıoğlu, Chair of the ERS Advocacy Council

“The COPD patient community has lost one of its greatest advocates! We, the Spanish Association of COPD Patients, APEPOC, are disconsolate. Isabel has always worked for the visibility of COPD, especially related to women’s COPD, taking into account that we have a scandalous under-diagnosis.

Your struggle and activism are an inspiration for us and we will try to carry on your legacy. You will always be in our hearts!”

Nicole Hass, APEPOC

“Isabel always had time to hear others’ experiences and use those to influence researchers, clinicians and policy makers whilst remaining empathetic at all times. Many of us with different lung conditions share concerns, experiences and feel affinity for others in similar situations and Isabel was no exception. Yes, she was a professional and effective ELF Chair but also a friendly, warm lady, always up for making a difference. She leaves a unique hole in the world of lung condition advocacy and will be much missed. My deepest condolences to her friends and family.”

Janette Rawlinson, ELF lung cancer PAG member

“A beautiful person is gone. She was not only inspiring and strong but as well smart and funny. My heart is heavy today but grateful I could know her a little…”

Olivia Menegale, ERS

“Isabel was an inspirational lady and gave so much to the respiratory community, not just for patients. She will be sadly missed by so many and I am pleased that our paths crossed because my life is richer for it. Bless you and your family and thank you. “

Monica Fletcher OBE, ELF Chair 2010-2014

“Sending my condolences to her family and all who knew her. She was an inspiration, so grateful to have met her. RIP Isabel and fly high! “

Toni Gibson, ELF severe asthma PAG Member

“I’m very sorry to hear this. My deepest condolences to Isabel’s family.”

Amy Auer, ERS

“Such sad news. A lovely lady. Heartfelt condolences to her family.”

Micah Clayton, ERS

“We are sad to learn of Isabel’s passing. We are grateful for her generosity and enthusiasm in supporting our work. Our deepest condolences to her family.”

Yet Khor, ATS Home Monitoring Project Committee