Everyone gets out of breath once and a while, but a trip from the kitchen to the living room shouldn’t leave one huffing and puffing. For people suffering with breathing difficulties, even a short walk can be an ordeal.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) sometimes called Chronic Bronchitis or Emphysema, is incurable, and the third leading cause of death in the United States. Smoking is by far the most common cause of COPD, but exposure to second hand smoke, pollution and other environmental irritants can also lead to the disease. In fact, more than 11 million people in the US have COPD, but millions more have it but have yet to be diagnosed. However, with proper treatment, and a holistic approach to health care that includes exercise, proper nutrition and medication, patients can live longer with greater quality of life.
According to Daniel Graviloni, RCP Director of the Respiratory Care Services, Sleep Center & Pulmonary Wellness at St. Jude Medical Center, “Most people don’t notice the symptoms of COPD until they lose half their lung capacity. But, with the proper tools, some of the damage can be reversed and patients can learn to do many things that enrich and prolong their lives.”
St. Jude Medical Center’s Pulmonary Rehab Center was recently certified by the American Association of Cardio Vascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). This distinction recognizes St. Jude’s practices and success in helping patients reach their maximum physical and emotional potential. The Pulmonary Rehabilitation center offers, exercise, nutrition and psychological support to help patients get their life back.
“Breathing is a passive function beginning at birth until we draw our last breath. So, when a patient experiences COPD and has difficulty breathing, or must think about breathing, the result is fear and sometimes depression,” says Graviloni. Most pulmonary rehab programs emphasize exercise, which is important, but there is much more that needs to be considered to truly impact quality of life.
The St. Jude rehab program starts by addressing the patient’s anxiety through an initial one on one counseling then follows 6-8 classes with 4-12 patients per class. In this small setting patients can meet others with the same issues and support each other. Often this results in long-term relationships and encouragement. “We had a patient who came to us very short of breath and anxious. She could only walk for about six minutes and, because she was afraid, was difficult and demanding. Through counseling she began to relax and by the end of the program, she had quadrupled her walking time and learned to manager her disease. Most people at lease double or triple their capacity after going through rehab,” recalls Graviloni.
Exercise is still the primary tool in helping patients to achieve their optimum mobility and health. “We have equipment that supports patients build their lung capacity and stamina. We also teach them exercises they can do at home and encourage them to walk as much as possible,” says Graviloni.
Another important component is nutrition. “People who struggle with breathing consume more calories. In addition, COPD can sometimes interfere with appetite. We encourage patients to take in more calories in the form of healthy carbohydrates and fats to make sure they are getting enough calories to support their energy needs.”
Learning to manage COPD is a breath of fresh air for patients who thought their life was confined to just a few steps. Working with the whole person, St. Jude’s Pulmonary Rehab can give people a new perspective and the tools to take back their life.
St. Jude Medical Center is a faith-based, non-profit 320-bed tertiary care hospital in Fullerton, California. Established 60 years ago by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, the Magnet-designated hospital has earned a reputation for clinical excellence and award-winning care, including being named one of California’ best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. St. Jude’s physicians and caregivers offer specialized care in neurosciences, stroke, digestive diseases, cancer, orthopedics, maternal/newborn, robotic and minimally invasive surgery, cardiac and rehabilitation. Please visit stjudemedicalcenter.org for more information.