December 1, 2022
NORTON, Kan. – Breath is life. So, if you’re struggling with lung function, it can be troubling. Fortunately, there are options to help get you through the effects of lung disease.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program of education and exercise to increase awareness about a patient's lungs and lung disease. It benefits people who have diagnoses such as COPD, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension and weight-associated breathing disorders. Of course, the big recent one is COVID-19.
Lacey Ninemire, registered respiratory therapist with Norton County Hospital, shared information about the pulmonary rehab program at the hospital. Typically, the program consists of 36 sessions.
“We meet two to three times a week. Two is the minimum you can meet. If someone is absolutely super gung-ho, we can do it four days a week,” said Ninemire.
During the first appointment, patients undergo a six-minute walk test. This is used for quality control and tracking—as it is repeated at the end of the program. After that first session, sessions involve breathing exercises, physical exercise and education.
“We'll do education a minimum of once every week, but it can be more depending on the patient and what his or her needs and requests are,” added Ninemire.
While some of the exercises can be done at home, having patients in a structured, monitored environment with professionals who have high-level expertise really can’t be beat. The goal with pulmonary rehab is to provide patients with the skills they need to manage their pulmonary disease.
“With most of the pulmonary diseases, once you are diagnosed with them, you never get rid of them. They are usually progressive,” explained Ninemire. “So that's one of the great things about pulmonary rehab. We teach you about breathing and how you should breathe, why you should breathe the way we're teaching you. We teach you about diet, because some foods can actually cause a person to have increased work of breathing.”
What can patients expect?
When a patient starts pulmonary rehab, he or she sets certain goals—ones that are measurable and hopefully attainable. For example, it might be something as simple as being able to walk up and down the stairs a couple of times a day.
“Depending on the patients and how much effort they put into it and how much they listen and are receptive, we'll start seeing decent results within the first 15 sessions,” said Ninemire.
“Even if we're just giving them techniques to help cope with everyday life things, sometimes for me, it's rewarding for someone to say, ‘I didn't get quite as short of breath doing this as I normally do.’ For me, that's a win, and that's a huge win for certain patients.”
“Basically, our goal is to help the patient get a little bit better and to be able to live their life, and still have a quality of life with this pulmonary disease,” she added.