Pulmonary Rehab: How Important?

Pulmonary Rehab: How Important?

How Important Is Pulmonary Rehab?I was diagnosed with COPD (emphysema) in 2005. A couple years later, after I had lost my business, my home and much of my ability to do normal physical activities, I asked 2 different doctors to tell me how much time I had left. Both said (reluctantly) approximately the same thing: 2 or 3 years. Of all the meds and treatments prescribed to me, pulmonary rehab was not one of them.

That was 10 years ago. Yes, I’m very happy to still be alive. Very. But I also struggle every day, sometimes for every breath. The simplest things have become difficult – taking a shower, walking the isles of the grocery store, searching for my next great photograph. I try to do these things with a smile on, so as not to let on that each shallow breath brings with it fear. And anxiety – that anxious feeling that I haven’t finished something or done enough and I may not have enough time to do so. I’m left wondering if pulmonary rehab couldn’t improve my quality of life.

Where's the pulmonary rehab, VA?All… well, most of my health care is through the VA. I see it as the benefit I receive for volunteering to get shot at for 18 months in Vietnam. The VA has treated me well and I have not experienced some of the delays and poor quality care that has been in the news the last several years. I feel lucky to have so many medical professionals at my disposal and the 3 different inhalers, the oxygen equipment and all the pills I need – even though none of these stops the progression of the disease, nor brings back any of the physical ability and stamina that has been taken away from me.

I am the first to admit that I have COPD mostly because of my own mistakes in life. I smoked for many years, although I quit smoking years before I was diagnosed. My career in floorcovering exposed me to many different kinds of dusts and chemicals that too often I failed to properly protect myself from. But the dangers weren’t widely known, or the safety measures weren’t usually included in any of the training I participated in over the course of 35 years. And I don’t know how much of the pesticides and defoliants I was exposed to in Vietnam had to do with it; or the secondhand smoke I grew up with while both parents were heavy smokers. Still, most people have heard me say many times, there is no one to blame for my COPD but me.

The article, Clearing the air about COPD struck me because I have so much in common with a couple of those depicted in the accompanying video. Toward the end of the video, there is talk of the value of Pulmonary Rehabilitation. I heard about pulmonary rehab a number of years ago and asked my doctors about it at the VA. Seems I was given the boilerplate answer that there is no proof that it is effective, so it is not offered by the VA. I guess I placed too much faith or trust in the VA and didn’t look too much further into it. I looked enough back in those years to learn there’s no pulmonary rehab facilities in Plumas County either. After watching the video associated with this article, I’m left wondering why, if the treatment is so successful, why it isn’t available locally or through the VA?

What we know for sure is, it allows people to live better, to be less short of breath, to have better quality of life on standardized measures. And there is definite preliminary evidence that it reduces hospital readmissions, hospitalizations, and ER use. -Dr. Dan Doyle

I’ve been up all night again. I’ve been having this problem lately when I’ve had protracted breathing troubles or other health issues, like a recent dog attack that left me with severe back pain and now, since I’ve developed a cough associated with acid reflux as a result of COPD. I have a fear of going to sleep. On the plus side, it has prompted this first post in 2 years.

Now I’m going to make an effort to bring pulmonary rehab to the attention of local medical professionals and to the VA. I hope you will take the time to contact any medical professionals you know and share the article linked to above. Click the Share link or copy the link for this page and send it in an email. Speak with anyone who might influence the powers that be. Ask that Pulmonary Rehab be an integral part of the treatment for COPD.

Jim McClain

Born 1949 and not dead yet.

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