Pulmonary Rehab Energizes Patients
Douglas Robinson moved to Annapolis three years ago after retiring from General Motors in Michigan. He was hoping better air quality would keep his emphysema and allergies at bay. But as most Marylanders know, and Robinson soon discovered, the air around Annapolis is a haven for allergies.
So the change of atmosphere didn’t help Robinson, but Anne Arundel Medical Center did. His Annapolis pulmonologist, Robert Peterson, M.D., referred him to the Respiratory Rehabilitation Program at AAMC in February of this year.
Robinson began a 12-week program that helped restore his diminished lung capacity through exercise and education. Robinson, 65, said, “I started smoking at 14 (stopped in 1984) and by the time I landed in the rehab program, I could hardly complete the six minute ‘baseline’ walk. By the end of the 12-week program, however, I’d increased my six minute walk by 200 feet.”
It may seem like a small victory for a healthy person, but it was a huge victory for Robinson. To him, and the thousands of people who suffer from respiratory complications, increasing lung capacity means increasing the quality of life. For Robinson, it has allowed him do things healthy people take for granted, such as shop, mow the grass, or take a walk.
“I feel much better,” he said. “Much, much better!” Now a member of the twice-weekly maintenance program, Robinson has increased his six minute walk to 23 minutes.
Ruth Anne Hayden, BA, RRT, the pulmonary rehab therapist who helped start the program five years ago and is the primary therapist for the program, sees about 25 patients a week. Half are in the 12-week program that meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the others have graduated to the maintenance program, which meets Tuesday and Thursday. The sessions are devoted to exercising and increasing lung capacity. While under supervised exercising, patients’ blood pressure, pulse, heart rhythms and oxygen levels are constantly monitored. During the 12-week program, patients usually see oxygen levels rise and feel an increase in energy.
An additional session is devoted to education, with speakers helping patients develop better breathing techniques, and learn about medication, exercising and nutrition.
Blanche Dawson joined the rehab program in May 1999. A retired psychiatric nurse and special education teacher from Crownsville, she has suffered from chronic bronchitis all her life. An auto accident and resulting pneumonia in the fall of 1998 landed her in the rehab program. “I was depressed. I couldn’t do anything,” she said. It’s hard to imagine that by looking at her now. At 84, she moves from one machine to another with surprising agility. “This place is wonderful. I can’t believe the energy I have now. Part of the credit goes to the staff. They are so enthusiastic and caring! We have parties; we get to know each other. And they encourage us every step of the way.”
Annapolis pulmonologist David Krimins, M.D., is medical director of the program. He agrees with Mrs. Dawson about the enthusiasm of the staff, under the direction of Hayden. “I often see a better response from supervised exercise therapy than through medication,” he said. “Unfortunately, rehab is greatly under-appreciated by many patients and physicians. Although,” he added, “more and more physicians in the area are looking at rehab for their patients. We see patients who leave the program who rely less on oxygen tanks, and more importantly, we’re seeing fewer re-admits to the hospital.”
Patients must have a referral from a physician to join the program. Hayden said she could help with referrals if someone wants to participate and currently isn’t under a physician’s care. For information, call (410) 267-1571 or 1056. TDD (410) 267-1235.