Imagine not being able to walk across the room without gasping for air.
That’s what life was like for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD) patient, 69-year-old Richard C. Elder, until he sought the services
of the Southeast Georgia Health System Pulmonary Rehabilitation program.
“When I started, I couldn’t do five minutes on the treadmill,”
says Mr. Elder. “Six months later, I could do 15 minutes without
stopping.” Patty Griffin, RRT, a registered respiratory therapist
who helped create the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at the Health System,
says that improving patients’ physical condition is crucial. “We
start with three to five minutes of exercise, with the goal of achieving
30 minutes,” she says.
Patient education is another program component. Topics covered include
how the lungs work, the impact of smoking, oxygen equipment options, medications,
and strategies for managing breathing problems.
While pulmonary rehabilitation can’t cure lung disease, it can improve
breathing and quality of life. What patients bring to the process is also
crucial to their success.
“I had to accept that my COPD wasn’t going away,” says
Mr. Elder. “I’m fortunate to have such a great facility and
staff available to me. The whole process is making my life better.”