Do you have trouble with everyday tasks like walking to the bathroom or cooking dinner because you can’t catch your breath?
When most people think of chronic respiratory diseases, they often think of someone with a face full of tubes carting a canister of oxygen with them everywhere they go. While many chronic respiratory diseases may result in such a situation, emphysema in particular; especially at their end state, the staff of pulmonary rehabilitation department at Pocahontas Community Hospital said such conditions have a far more pervasive effect on nearly every aspect of a sufferer’s daily life.
Respiratory therapist Jessica Behrends explained that when people first come to her department’s door, they often have trouble taking more than a few steps without stopping to gasp to catch their breath. Often, she relayed, that can result in a chain reaction, where muscles tighten and anxiety sets in, which further shortens a person’s breath so the person can do even less, which, in turn, leads to more anxiety, which leads even shorter breath and tighter muscles, which leads to....
It’s called the Dyspnea Cycle, and unless action is taken, it often results in people falling into deep depression. It’s something Behrends and pulmonary rehab nurse Lindsay Hoover see all-too-often. “If you’re totally dependent on other people or just can’t walk to the bathroom because you can’t breathe, you can easily become depressed,” Behrends related.
Fortunately, Behrends and Hoover specialize in rehabilitation that is aimed at helping people get past the Dyspnea Cycle and improve their day-to-day lives. “We utilize a multi-faceted program to look at a person’s overall health and how we can improve it,” Behrends asserted.
So, what exactly is that “multi-faceted program?” Primarily, the pulmonary pair work with people to recondition their lungs and heart - as the two organs are inextricably linked. To do that, they focus on both strength and aerobic exercises - think going to the gym for your lungs. On top of that, they teach breathing exercises which are designed to help people avoid the shallow breaths and tense muscles that kick the Dyspnea Cycle into hyperdrive. But they don’t just stop there; Behrends and Hoover also help teach people to properly utilize their medications, especially inhalers and nebulizers, as well as work with patients to improve how they eat and how they live. “We work on giving patients a better understanding of themselves and their disease,” Behrends related. Oh, they’ll help you quit smoking, too!
Over the course of 18 biweekly sessions, Behrends and Hoover help patients to set goals and work with them to steadily reach their goals - ultimately better breathing, better living. Often, the women said, people start with small goals. “It’s usually as simple as trying to go to the bathroom by yourself or cooking a meal without getting winded,” Hoover said, adding, “We help people be more confident in their daily activities.” Behrends likened it to the age-old tale of the tortoise and the hare, with pulmonary rehab being the hero-in-a-half-shell - slow and steady...
By their very nature, chronic respiratory diseases don’t go away. Because of that, Behrends and Hoover don’t operate in a bubble, and also establish “coordinated care” plans working alongside other departments like home health, palliative care, physical therapy, and behavioral health. “We get people all the care we can get them while they’re here,” Hoover quipped.
Pulmonary rehabilitation at PCH can help you get the “wind back in your sails!” Call (712) 335-3501.