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Pulmonary Rehabilitation provides hope

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Now that she doesn't have to have her oxygen tank and cords at her side all hours of the day, Jo Moore, Thompson Falls resident, is excited to catch up on all the things she has been missing since she suffered a Pulmonary Embolism in 2013. Moore, one of four patients to be part of the first class offered through Clark Fork Valley Hospital's (CFVH) newly launched Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, has gone from using her oxygen tank 24 hours/day to using it only while she sleeps after only four course sessions.

"The thought that I was going to have my oxygen tank attached to me all the time was so depressing. I made up my mind that I didn't want to live like that. Not having to have my oxygen all the time has been so freeing and I owe it to this class," commented Moore.

The new Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, which officially launched with its first course series on March 11th, approaches treatment with a multidisciplinary team approach including input from the patient's primary care provider, Respiratory and Physical Therapists, Program Medical Director, Dr. Ronald Black and CFVH's dietitian, Leslie Coates. Once a treatment plan is developed, patients primarily work with respiratory therapists who coordinate and monitor the patients during course sessions.

Patients who are eligible for the program suffer from a wide range of diagnosis including but not limited to COPD, Pulmonary Hypertension, Obesity related lung disease and Sarcoidosis.

How many courses they participate in depends on the individual patient and their diagnosis. Most patients are going to graduate to do things on their own after 15 – 20 sessions and they are allowed 36 per lifetime as a benefit though Medicare. Patients can get approved for up to 72 sessions in certain circumstances.

The sessions are twice per week for up to two hours depending on educational topics and treatment focus. Every session includes two parts: education and exercise. "We cover topics like breathing techniques, emotional well being, nutrition and activity," explains TaLoni DuBois, Respiratory Therapist and Cardiopulmonary Services Manager.

When it's exercise time, patients have available to them a treadmill, elliptical machine, recumbent bike, ergometer and weights.

Gene Pinkley, Plains resident who suffers from COPD and Emphysema, was only able to do about two minutes on the recumbent bike when he exercised during his first course session. After seven sessions, he can now exercise twenty minutes on the bike, five minutes on the treadmill and ten minutes on the ergometer.

"Because of my condition, people want to do things for me and a little of that is ok but I really need to get to the point where I can do things for myself," says Pinkley. Pinkley has been working hard to regain his independence since 2009 when he was diagnosed with Colon Cancer and had a number of operations contributing to his struggles with COPD.

"At first I couldn't do anything for myself. Then I got in the habit of not doing anything for myself. This program has helped motivate me to get out of that habit so I can be self sufficient again," says Pinkley

"Patients are taking away so much more than exercise techniques from these courses," said DuBois. "They are benefiting from a supportive environment and a new perspective. A lot of our patients have friends and family members who are so worried about them that they coddle them resulting in inactivity and co-dependence. Here, they are encouraged and given the tools they need to do for themselves at a safe pace. They also see others with similar disease processes which gives them perspective to see past their own disease and realize that they are not alone."

So patients don't lose momentum once they've completed their courses, CFVH has made an extra effort to have a Post-Pulmonary Rehabilitation Exercise Lab available to program participants to use during the week like they would other gym facilities. The benefit though will be therapists close by for assistance in case the need arises.

"This first course has been our pilot course and has proven to be quite successful," says DuBois. "It is our hope that we will soon be able to offer four courses per day so we can meet the need for this valuable service in Sanders County."

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