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Sharp Health News

From COPD to breathing free

March 26, 2018

From COPD to breathing free

At 95 years old, Ilaria Cruz exercises two times a week at Sharp HealthCare Pulmonary Rehabilitation to stay active and independent.

You may think that someone nearing 100 years old would be taking it easy, but not 95-year-old Ilaria Cruz. She lives an active lifestyle — she works out two times a week; devotes time to her 15 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren; and enjoys gardening, sewing and crocheting.

Cruz hasn’t always been active and in good health. In 2007, she started experiencing shortness of breath. Her primary care doctor diagnosed her with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe.

“My doctor referred me to the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at Sharp Memorial Hospital,” says Cruz. “He said I would participate in a supervised exercise plan, learn techniques to improve how I perform daily activities, and have the opportunity to attend educational meetings and support groups.”

The program is recommended for people with common lung conditions that cause shortness of breath such as COPD and other respiratory disorders. Patients who participate in the program may reduce the symptoms of their condition, decrease their anxiety and improve their quality of life.

Patients start with a comprehensive health evaluation to create the most effective care plan. After the evaluation, patients will work with their specialists to set meaningful, personalized goals. Participants have the support of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, registered dietitians and social workers throughout the program.

Cruz attended rehabilitation sessions twice a week for eight weeks. When her initial program ended, Cruz decided to continue pulmonary rehabilitation for the supervised exercise sessions and educational and group gatherings.

When Cruz first came to pulmonary rehabilitation, all she wanted to do was breathe better so she could travel to Europe with her daughters. With the help of pulmonary rehabilitation, she was able to go on the trip and make memories with her family.

“I have been attending pulmonary rehabilitation for nearly 11 years now, and I don’t plan on quitting anytime soon,” says Cruz. “The program has helped me improve my shortness of breath, and keeps me active and independent.”

For more information about the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at Sharp HealthCare, visit

For the news media: To talk with a Sharp expert about the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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