Catch your breath From Spotlight on Health - Summer 2012
Less than a year ago, Judy Douvier had to stop to catch her breath when she walked up the steps in her home. Judy, 67, of St. Joseph, has had her share of lung problems throughout her life, suffering from numerous colds, lung infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
She was diagnosed many years ago with scleroderma, which hardens the tissues, including her lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
“My breathing didn’t allow me to do the things I love,” said Judy, an avid fisher and hunter. While there is no cure for scleroderma, Judy knew she had to find some relief.
Judy was referred to pulmonary rehabilitation at St. Cloud Hospital.
Like many beginners, Judy thought the program was overwhelming. “I could barely walk for 3 minutes and to think about exercising was frightening.” Ask Judy today, during one of her 45-minute walks, and she will tell you how the program has changed her life.
“It is not an instantaneous program,” Judy said, “but things do get better and easier. The program has taught me lifestyle patterns to get the most out of my lungs.”
Judy Douvier walks on the treadmill as part of her respiratory therapy program at St. Cloud Hospita
while being monitored by respiratory therapist,
“The program focuses on your entire body, not just your lungs,” said Jessica Oman, a pulmonary rehabilitation specialist/respiratory therapist. Patients are given information about healthy routines and are monitored by a respiratory therapist, dietitian, exercise physiologist, pharmacist, Spiritual Care staff, physical and occupational therapists.
“Breathing is one of those things people take for granted,” Judy said. “The program takes effort, but I know it works. I am able to do things with my grandkids like climb rock piles and go fishing. It’s moments like these that take my breath away.”
Save your lungs … with help from pulmonary rehabilitation
Unlike many diseases, there are no major symptoms for lung diseases. By the time you find it difficult to breathe, you have a serious condition. Some patients have lost up to 50 percent of their lung function before seeing a doctor.
Exercise is one way to slow the progression of lung disease and keep what you have.
When shortness of breath occurs, it is common to become less active because of fear. This inactivity makes shortness of breath worse and places you at a higher risk for lung infections.
Most people also hold their breath during activities, further draining energy levels.
Pulmonary rehabilitation retrains your breathing using pursed lips and diaphragmatic skills. These techniques help keep airways open during exhalation, slows breathing and creates a deeper breath.
Pulmonary rehabilitation meets 2 to 3 days per week for 6 to 12 weeks. For details, call (320) 251-2700, ext. 54345.
Support is available! The Breath Savers Support Group offers support to those with chronic lung disease. For dates and times, call (320) 251-2700, ext. 54345.