It's All in the Attitude for COPD Sufferer
March 25, 2016
Huron, S.D. – After living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease for more than 10 years, Joanne Hamilton decided to take action by giving pulmonary rehabilitation at Huron Regional Medical Center a try.
Hamilton, who lives in Huron, is one of the nearly two million Americans affected by chronic lung disease. “My COPD is very severe and seemed to be getting worse so my healthcare provider, Doreen Boomsma, suggested this program might help,” said Hamilton. “I really surprised myself with the improvements I have been able to make in my activity level and stamina.”
“During her initial assessment, Joanne told me she experienced shortness of breath during daily living activities like walking, dressing, stairs, vacuuming and carrying groceries,” Chanda Kolousek, a respiratory therapist at HRMC, explained. “That is one of the key things we look for when determining if pulmonary rehabilitation will be helpful for a patient.”
Pulmonary rehabilitation fills a need for patients with chronic lung disease such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer, interstitial lung disease and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).
“If breathing is affecting your normal daily activity, you are often short of breath, are easily fatigued doing things that used to be easy or you have a nagging cough, pulmonary therapy can help to improve your quality of life and get you back to the activities you enjoy doing,” Kolousek explained.
The program centers on education, awareness and exercises to strengthen the breathing muscles. “Chanda taught me so much about breathing, the importance of regular exercise, managing stress and how to relax when breathing gets difficult,” said Hamilton. “But the biggest improvement has been in my attitude.
“I used to think I just couldn’t do many things because of my breathing – but they taught me I could!” said Hamilton. “They don’t give up on you and they make you push yourself – and then you realize you can do it!”
During the six-week program, Hamilton learned how to adjust her medications and proper use of inhalers to ensure the timing and usage is maximized. She also learned a variety of exercises to help with breathing and to strengthen the muscles used for breathing.
Pursed lip breathing, where the patient breathes in normally and exhales through pursed lips keeps the airways from collapsing and trapping old air in the lungs. Pursing the lips elevates the pressure in the airways much like pinching a balloon keeps it inflated.
“Our lungs and air passages are elastic and meant to stretch and contract,” said Kolousek. “When a patient’s disease is causing a problem with that natural process, we teach them breathing techniques to help overcome that problem.”
Patients also learn to strengthen their breathing muscles through various exercises they can work into their daily routine while watching TV or laying in bed.
Patients also perform general exercises to strengthen and tone the muscles in the rest of the body because toned muscles require less oxygen than weaker muscles, according to Kolousek. Therapists also teach the patients to pace themselves in their activities and conserve energy so they can accomplish more in the day. By not hurrying, walking and breathing correctly, the patient doesn’t get so short of breath so they can move onto the next activity.
Hamilton graduated from the program last fall and today can perform daily activities of living without pain and does need to use oxygen. She credits Kolousek with much of her success, “Chanda was fantastic, very motivating and really was the key to helping me change my attitude. She encouraged me and told me to pace myself – but just keep moving.”
“That’s really my job – to teach the patient and cheer them on,” Kolousek commented. “The patient does the hard work and makes the changes.”
When asked if she had any advice for others who struggled with a breathing condition, Hamilton said, “I’d recommend the program to anyone with any type of breathing difficulties. It will never hurt anything – they will only help you.”
“I still want to vacuum my own floor and remain independent,” said Hamilton. “I now have the energy and outlook to complete all the projects I want.”
HRMC pulmonary therapy staff celebrated Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week, March 13-19, 2016, and will continue throughout the month of March by promoting the importance of good lung health and the benefits of pulmonary therapy.
Persons interested in more information on the benefits of pulmonary therapy, should consult with their physician or call HRMC at 353-6531. More information can also be found online at www.huronregional.org, More information on COPD and other breathing disorders is available at www.yourlunghealth.org.
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