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Breathing Easier - Pulmonary Rehabilitation Promotes Quality Of Life, Independence

For patients suffering from chronic lung disease, pulmonary rehabilitation is like a breath of fresh air. Literally.Most clients of the Tamkin Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, located in Eisenhower’s Renker Wellness Center, progress from being barely able to perform daily activities to achieving 30 minutes or more of exercise three times a week.

“People with breathing problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma tend to get trapped in a vicious cycle,” explains Ronald Sneider, MD, FCCP, Medical Director of Pulmonary Services, Eisenhower Medical Center. “They are afraid of becoming short of breath so they begin avoiding activities of all kinds. They become isolated and sedentary. Thus, a cycle of inactivity begins.” Pulmonary rehabilitation gives patients the tools to live healthier, more active lives. In addition, according to evidence-based guidelines published for pulmonary rehabilitation, a specialized program not only improves quality of life and endurance, it decreases hospital stays as well.

Eisenhower Medical Center’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program consists of two-hour sessions, two days a week for eight-weeks, guided by a multi-disciplinary team that includes Dr. Sneider, two pulmonary rehabilitation specialists and exercise trainers. The program has two components: education and exercise, consisting of lower extremity endurance training on a stationary bike or treadmill and upper extremity strengthening exercises.

“Knowledge is the key to managing lung disease. Education reduces fear,” says Julia Dugan, RN, RRT, BS, Coordinator of Eisenhower Medical Center’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program. “Our program addresses symptom management, the disease process and stress control among others. People with lung disease can take the air in, but can’t efficiently push it out. Their alveoli [air sacs] do not function properly anymore. This leads to shortness of breath, stress and anxiety.” Inevitably, anxiety leads to a more pronounced feeling of shortness of breath.

The Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at Eisenhower Medical Center helps clients change their breathing patterns using pursed lip and diaphragmatic breathing. Dugan explains, “This helps our clients exhale the stale air so they can inhale new air, providing them with more oxygen and decreasing their shortness of breath. It gives them a sense of control and reduces their stress and anxiety levels while allowing them to tolerate more activity.”

The group dynamic also helps reduce isolation for many clients, many who have never exercised before.Most end up making significant improvement during the course of the program. “While we can’t reduce the damage to their lungs, we can improve their quality of life,” says Dugan. “One client came in with severe emphysema and was on oxygen 24 hours a day.Within three weeks she could fix her own hair. She hadn’t done that in over two years. Another man had to stop golfing when breathing became too difficult. After rehabilitation, he was able to golf again by wearing portable oxygen on his waist and using pursed lip-breathing techniques. These are just a couple of our many positive outcomes.”

Eisenhower’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program is designed for people with moderate to severe lung disease. Patients with other lung diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis, and pre- and post-lung transplant patients are also candidates for pulmonary rehabilitation. Potential clients must have a referral from a primary care physician to participate. For more information, call 760- 773-2031.


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