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Sharp Health News

Pulmonary rehab for chronic lung disease

May 28, 2021

Jacquelyn Ayers (left), Kurt Mengel (right) and pulmonary rehab specialist April Brohamer (center)

Jacquelyn Ayers (left) and Kurt Mengel (right) participate in the pulmonary rehabilitation program at Sharp Grossmont Hospital to help manage their COPD. Pulmonary rehab specialist April Brohamer (center) helps patients develop individualized goals.

For Jacquelyn Ayers, answering the front door at home is no easy task. Her main living area is on the second floor, so opening the front door or getting to the garage requires walking down a flight of stairs.

Jacquelyn is 68 years old and living with severe COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The daily routine of going up and down stairs can literally take her breath away. But with help from staff at Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s pulmonary rehabilitation program, she is breathing a little easier.

“I am able to traverse the stairs a little easier because of the help of my care team teaching me breathing practices. I am able to walk a little farther each time I go out. The program gives you confidence,” says Jacquelyn.

“I experienced shortness of breath, chronic fatigue and weight loss for several years, until the worst happened,” she says. “My neighbor found me behind the wheel of my car, unresponsive. After my hospitalization, I was referred to the program by my pulmonologist.”

Working together
Sharp Grossmont’s pulmonary rehabilitation program is an outpatient program where specialists work with patients on exercise and breathing techniques to improve their quality of life.

“The goal is to keep patients healthy and out of the hospital,” says Kelsi Ostenson, pulmonary rehabilitation program manager. “They receive education on a range of topics, from medication management and ideal nutrition to how to manage in-home oxygen. Patients learn in a supportive environment with peers who are going through similar challenges.”

The program allows patients to work with respiratory therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and social workers, among others, who help patients improve their breathing so that they can accomplish everyday tasks.

When designing a treatment plan for a patient, staff begin with an evaluation.

“The assessment sets the foundation for all services provided, allowing for the development of a plan of care according to the patient's individualized goals,” says April Brohamer, a pulmonary rehabilitation specialist.

What do patients do in pulmonary rehab?
“I participate in the formal program two days a week,” says patient Kurt Mengel. “My workout is about one-and-a-half hours long and mainly consists of various workout machines, including treadmills and rowing machines. On my days off I make sure I walk a lot and once a week I do a Pilates program.”

Mengel, who is 70 years old and was diagnosed four years ago with stage 4 COPD, often felt short of breath and became tired quickly. Since he began the program, he has more stamina for everyday activities.

“When I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t even make up my bed,” he says. “Now I am able to do so many more things than I could then. This includes walking the dogs, helping around the house, driving myself to go shopping and many other things. The pulmonary rehabilitation program has had a gigantic impact on my quality of life.”

Learn more about the pulmonary rehab programs at Sharp HealthCare.

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