Marsha Hoft, 75, has always enjoyed going dancing and goes every week. Or, she did until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She thought putting her dancing shoes away might improve her newfound shortness of breath. But when it got worse, she made an appointment with Lake Regional Pulmonologist Harjyot “Joe” Sohal, M.D. Dr. Sohal diagnosed her with COPD and referred her to Lake Regional Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation.
Pulmonary rehabilitation helps people with chronic breathing problems breathe easier, so activity is easier and their quality of life is better. During the week of March 14–20, Lake Regional Health System’s Cardiopulmonary Rehab department joins health care organizations nationwide in observing National Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week. This year’s theme, “Breathe Easy,” fits Hoft’s experiences perfectly.
“Rehab has helped me learn how to breathe properly,” Hoft said. “Before, I didn’t know there were techniques I could use to help me reduce my breathing difficulties and shortness of breath. The breathing retraining has made completing so many of my daily activities easier.”
What is Pulmonary Rehab?
Pulmonary rehabilitation is dedicated to improving the health of people with chronic lung disease. Most pulmonary rehab patients suffer from a pulmonary disease, such as COPD. Pulmonary rehab also benefits people with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung disease.
Physicians structure and supervise the plan, which might include exercise conditioning, breathing retraining, nutritional counseling, medication management and goal setting. The exercise program is individualized, and clinic staff monitor each patient’s blood pressure, oxygen, weight and heart function during each session.
A referral from a primary care physician or pulmonologist is required to begin pulmonary rehabilitation. Most patients are prescribed six to twelve weeks, but patients can choose to maintain their progress by participating in the maintenance program.
What are the outcomes?
Benefits of pulmonary rehab can include a reduction in respiratory symptoms, increased muscle strength, greater endurance and the ability to perform tasks that once seemed daunting.
“In addition to now paying better attention to my breathing, I just feel better overall,” said Hoft, who is now in the maintenance phase. “I haven’t had to use my inhaler, and I’m hoping that if I keep up with my pulmonary rehab plan, then I won’t need to be on oxygen later. I credit rehab with keeping me out of the hospital and limiting my doctor visits.”
Pulmonary rehab also plays a positive role in a patient’s emotional wellness. Having the support of understanding clinical staff and the camaraderie of fellow patients can reduce the anxiety and depression that sometimes accompanies chronic illness.
“I look forward to my rehab sessions and appreciate having a place where I feel supported in my exercise program,” Hoft said. “I make sure to go consistently because I always feel better when I leave.”
Lake Regional’s cardiopulmonary program is certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. The program has three phases. Phase I, II and III services are available at Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach. Phase II and III services also are available at Lake Regional’s Pulmonary Rehab clinics in Eldon and Laurie. For more information, call 573.302.2280 or visit lakeregional.com/LungCare.