Published in the Fall 2012 Issue of Join Us Magazine.
Pulmonary Rehab Services improve breathing – and quality of life
When Ralph Hall first started working with asbestos in 1951 and smoking in 1952, the dangers of those activities were not known. Now, Ralph is paying the price. After having lung surgery in 1998 and again in 2003, Ralph still is dealing with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and other breathing problems which require supplemental oxygen.
But today, Ralph goes with what he does know.
“I know that pulmonary rehab is helping my condition,” he says confidently. “I have already seen an improvement so I will absolutely continue.”
Ralph is one of the patients now being helped by Pulmonary Rehab Services, offered in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Atrium Medical Center. The new department opened in spring 2012 in response to high demand for care of people with lung conditions.
Decreasing Symptoms with Exercise
Amaresh Nath, MD
“There can be an overuse of medications for diseases such as COPD and they are of limited benefit. A medically supervised program of exercise can significantly improve function, the effects of disabling symptoms and quality of life for patients like Ralph,” says Ralph’s pulmonary physician, Amaresh Nath, MD.
Dr. Nath is one of the people responsible for pulmonary rehab now being available at Atrium, convenient for so many patients in the area.
“It used to be I couldn’t walk more than 100 feet without having to stop and rest a few minutes,” Ralph says. “I like to go to sports activities, especially my grandson’s baseball games and my granddaughter’s softball games. But when I was out with other people, I felt like a nuisance. Now I’m doing a lot better.”
Dr. Nath says that on a standard breathing test, Ralph scores 61 percent. Anyone with less than 65 percent can have dramatic reductions in their quality of life.
He also points out that advanced lung disease brings a particular set of problems. “These patients have higher demand on their lungs yet they have deconditioned muscles,” he says. “Education and the right exercises can help significantly.”
Gayle DeBord, RN, team leader of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab Services at Atrium, says that the exercises patients learn during pulmonary rehab improve muscle strength and endurance.
“We also help patients learn new breathing techniques,” Gayle says. “We show them how to conserve energy and help them learn more about supplemental oxygen and inhalers. It’s all about decreasing symptoms to help people truly feel better.”
Taking Control for Better Health
These steps are certainly helping Ralph breathe easier. Normal blood oxygen levels for people without COPD and other lung conditions are 94 to 98 percent. “When I first started with pulmonary rehab, my blood oxygen levels were in the 70s,” Ralph says. “Now I can feel an improvement.” This improvement, explains Dr. Nath, is due to “better breathing technique and more efficient utilization of oxygen.”
Ralph adds that the exercises and breathing techniques he’s learned from Atrium’s Pulmonary Rehab Services are similar to other aspects of life. “You get out of it what you put into it,” he says. “Somebody else can’t get you well. You’re living in your own body and if there’s something to make me feel better, oh yeah, I’m going for it.”
Ralph likes the friendly and caring attention he receives at Atrium. He describes the staff as “exceptionally nice and interested in helping me.” Best of all, he appreciates the improvements he’s seeing.
“I smoked for 32 years and I regret ever picking up a cigarette,” Ralph says with his usual honesty. “Plus I worked in a manufacturing facility where I was handling four-by-eight sheets of asbestos. No wonder my lungs are a mess.”
“But here is where I am now,” he says. “You’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt. I don’t believe in complaining. I believe in trying to go for something better.”
For more information about Pulmonary Rehab Services at Atrium Medical Center, call our Cardiac Rehab Center at (513) 420-5258.
“I know that pulmonary rehab is helping my condition…I will absolutely continue.”—Ralph Hall
Who can Pulmonary Rehab help?
Pulmonary rehabilitation is for those who experience lung problems such as:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Pulmonary Hypertension
- Pulmonary Fibrosis
- Interstitial lung disease
- Lung cancer and before lung cancer surgery
- Before and after lung transplantation and lung volume reduction surgery