In this series youll find real people who share stories of their experience in pulmonary rehab. Watch for more pulmonary rehab success stories with related articles with tips and suggestions on making the most of exercise in rehab or at home.Arnie Vanzo spent most of his adult life fighting fires, but a little over five years ago he found himself fighting for every breath. Years of exposure to smoke and chemicals from burning homes, businesses and factories, in addition to more than 60-years of cigarette smoking, left him with COPD.
In spite of a lot of insult, the lungs are very forgiving and often dont show COPD symptoms until there is a significant loss of lung function. So after retiring from his career as a fireman, Arnie kept busy. He did woodworking, and maintained his lawn and garden. For the time being, everything seemed to be fine.
It came on slowly at first, then I became more short of breath and eventually found that I was doing less and less. Then one day my doctor told me I had just four years to live. Im not a quitter. I had to do something! I knew it was mainly from my smoking, so I tried the patch, the gum, hypnosis nothing worked. Then I found a seven-step program where I started by setting a target date to quit and went from there. I slipped back a couple times, but I didnt give up and finally I quit.
A few years later, though, Arnies COPD caught up with him, his breathing became laboreda real struggleeven when he was resting. The increased shortness of breath and fatigue soon forced him to give up the last few things he loved to do. It was hard to let go of most activities, but especially devasting to give up gardening.
Arnies wife, Dorothy, a former nurse, recommended he enroll in the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at McLaren Regional Medical Center in Flint, the largestand one of the oldestpulmonary rehabs in the State of Michigan.
I was skeptical because I was having such a hard time breathing with any exertion. But Ive always been interested in a lot of things and have always kept myself busy. I was always doing something. Now I couldnt do anything so I figured I might as well go to rehab.
They started me off very slowly and by the end of 12 weeks I was much better. I learned how to breathe better, eat better, and take control of my health. I learned that I cant overdo it. If I do, Im just going to undo everything Ive gained. I learned to pace myself, and a year a?er I started rehab I was able to tend my gardens again.
Today, motorists passing Arnie and Dorothys home admire the lush gardens. I had 120 rose bushes but the Japanese Beetles took care of that, so now I have about 45. Altogether I think we have seven different planting beds. Val (the Pulmonary Rehab manager) talked me into helping in the flower gardens at rehab and I work on that before going in for exercise.
I plan to continue rehab as long as Im able, and to help with the garden. Val and her staff have given so much to me, this is a way for me to give something back to them.