Pulmonary rehabilitation has many benefits for young people and senior citizens, who may have one or more breathing ailments.
My first wife, Ann, had kypho scoliosis, which meant that her spine had a combination of outward curvature and lateral curvature. Thus she had difficulty breathing. She was on oxygen 24 hours a day, and a C-PAP at night. Her doctor urged her to go to pulmonary rehab. After checking around, she chose Newfane hospital, which was close to where we lived. She went twice a week.
Since I had asthma, I was able to be in the same program. After Ann died, I continued rehab at Newfane until it closed. And then I stopped exercising. After a while, though, I realized I was using my inhaler more, and I could not walk as far without stopping for breath. Maybe the pulmonary rehab had helped more than I realized.
When I saw my pulmonologist and explained my symptoms, he urged me to get back into pulmonary rehab. Since his office was right next to Mount St. Mary’s Hospital, he suggested the hospital’s program.
I made an appointment for an interview. Afterward, Cindy, one of the nurses, showed me the facility. What I saw was overwhelming – treadmills, bikes, rowing machines, stair steppers and some machines I had not seen before. I was accepted and began rehab.
On my first day, Cindy met me and introduced me to other patients. She stressed that taking my oxygen level and my heart rate was an important part of rehab. I did that before doing anything else, and after each exercise. Next, I did the warm-up exercises. After that I took my oxygen level and heart rate again. The hospital provided a form to keep track of the figures.
Pulmonary rehab is not only a physical workout; it is educational. The nurses tried to make me aware of the signs and symptoms of shortness of breath, and taught me how to control the anxiety attacks associated with it. They distribute handouts about nutrition and other pertinent topics.
As I went through my routine, I looked around to see the makeup of the group. There were men and women; some were older while others were younger than myself. Some were on oxygen.
My workout ended with the machine I didn’t recognize earlier – the arm ergometer. It is like pedaling a bike with your hands.
Then I did the cool-down exercises with which I began. The nurses taught me that warm-ups and cool-downs are a very important part of the exercise routine.
What have I learned from going to pulmonary rehab? It has improved my strength and endurance. In May each year, the Cystic Fibrosis Association has a walk to raise money. Since my granddaughter has CF, I have tried to support the walk. At first I just donated to it, but did not take part in the walk. In 2013, I walked, but not very far. Last year, I was able to walk farther before using my inhaler.
Recently, after I finished my routine and was leaving, I stopped to talk with a woman who was on a bike. As we talked, she said, “I have a bike and a treadmill at home, but I come here for the fellowship.” That is true. I look forward to Mondays and Wednesdays not only for the workout, but for the friendship. I urge any person who might have a breathing problem to look into a pulmonary rehab program.