In this series you will find real people who share stories of their experience in pulmonary rehabilitation.
Will Rowland was a frequent visitor to the hospital, but not in a good way. He was a young man, only in his 50s, yet COPD and asthma made it impossible for him to work at his job in the auto parts business. Additionally, Rowland had breathing flare-ups that were severe enough to require a stay in the hospital two to three times a year. He knew something had to change.
Frequent COPD exacerbations (flare-ups or episodes of increased difficulty breathing, often with illness) are common in people with COPD, but they dont have to be. Rowlands doctor knew that pulmonary rehabilitation (pulmonary rehab) could help him improve his strength and endurance and provide him with the information he needed to take charge of his COPD and overall health.
Will admits that at first, he was pretty nervous about pulmonary rehab. After all, how could a guy with bad lungs who uses supplemental oxygen get better by exercising? But he had always been a positive person and he thought it was worth a try. On his first day there he met with Dana Wiersema, the respiratory therapist and manager of the Spectrum Health Pulmonary Rehab program in Grand Rapids, Michigan. From the start, Will was impressed by the cheerful, positive, attitude of Dana and her staff. I liked them and I wanted to follow their advice.
He started out slowly and little by little built his strength and endurance. Soon he was beginning to feel better. One of his main motivations was the confidence he had in the staff that they were professionals and knew what they were doing.
The therapists and their instructions made the program easy for me, he says.
Will participated in Phase II, the main phase of pulmonary rehab(see next page) for eight weeks and learned about many things: Proper breathing techniques, medications, nutrition, relaxation, coping and something especially important in his casehow to watch for early warning signs of breathing trouble and what to do if they occur.
When he completed Phase II of pulmonary rehab, Will was able to exercise for 30 minutes at a time.
Being in rehab made a huge difference in my breathing. I could breathe twice as good as I did before, he says.
Following graduation from Phase II, Will could have just congratulated himself on his accomplishments, gone home, and sat there. But he knew better. In order to keep the gains hed achieved and not slide back into declining health, he signed up and continued on. The plan was to stick with exercise two days a week and have support with monitoring his lung healthas a participant in the Phase III maintenance phase of pulmonary rehab.
Will was asked what he might say to others who are wondering if pulmonary rehab would help them.
For me, I tried the program and its helped me a lot. I dont know where Id be now if I hadnt taken the program, he says.
Its certainly understandable why someone with COPD would feel nervous on the first day of pulmonary rehab. But Will did it. He put trust in the instructions and advice of Dana and her staff, put forth his best physical effort, kept a positive attitudeand stuck with it. He can now exercise for 60 minutes, twice a week.
Four years after completing pulmonary rehab Phase II, Will still goes to the hospital a lot, but not because hes sick its so that he can stay well.
Pulmonary Rehabilitation Phases
Phase I The period of time between the doctors referral and the start of out-patient rehab. Pulmonary function testing may be done at this time. Some programs provide beginning exercise and education for patients while still in the hospital.
Phase II The main part of a pulmonary rehab program. Participants come to the center 2-3 days a week for 6-12 weeks for exercise and education. Some programs have staff working with participants one-on-one, others have a small class setting. Phase II pulmonary rehab is now a Medicare-covered benefit for individuals diagnosed with COPD who qualify according to certain criteria.
Phase III Continuing exercise following graduation from Phase II. This may take place at the same location as Phase II, or elsewhere. Most Phase III maintenance programs are self pay, but very affordable.