Thursday, August 18, 2016
Hazel Clark just completed a 10 week (3 days per week) pulmonary rehabilitation program with Heather Nelson, Director of Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
Hazel’s lung problems were not caused by smoking. She has GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter, the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach. Many people suffer from heartburn or acid indigestion caused by GERD. Only a small percentage of people with GERD develop a condition where the stomach's contents can also move into your throat and be drawn past your vocal cords and into your lungs, where they can cause damage, along with hoarseness, a chronic dry cough, or asthma. This is what affected Hazel’s lungs while she was sleeping.
Hazel came into the hospital in March to have her gall bladder removed, and her oxygen levels were so low that she was sent home on oxygen: 3 liters a day with activity was what she was initially prescribed. With her 10 week pulmonary rehab program, recommended to her by her physician, Dr. Dobbertin, she has made remarkable progress, and is now on ½ liter of oxygen only at night.
She is immensely pleased with her progress, as she should be. Sara Stinson, Doctor of Physical Therapy at Dan Wyand and Associates, happened to be monitoring Hazel when I interviewed her. Sara did a bit of bragging on Hazel’s behalf. When Hazel first started the program, she exercised 10 ½ minutes within the hour – she is now up to 42 minutes! She feels better, has more energy, and no longer has to be on oxygen during the day. “I didn’t care about anything when I first started this program. I was always tired and never wanted to go out and about. After 2 or 3 weeks, it was a completely different story. I’m having fun!” She’s also made friends and enjoys the comradery of the group. “You learn about people and their stories – it’s fun to share in their success and it keeps me out of my own thoughts that take room up in my head.”
Her plan is to continue the Phase 3 rehabilitation program, which means she can pay a nominal fee and continue working her current program under less supervision. She also wears a pedometer and it’s become a bit of a competition with herself to see how many steps she walks a day. We compared notes on procrastination and how much easier it is to have a set appointment to exercise, so she knows that signing on with the Phase 3 program will be much easier than setting herself up to potentially lose all that she’s gained.
Heather Nelson, Director of the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at NVRH is enjoying re-energizing the program. “When people like Hazel make great changes, like getting off oxygen, I get very excited for them. She’s the one who kept at it, and was willing to learn about what exercise can do for you. I love sharing in the patients’ success stories.” If you’re interested in knowing more about the program, please call Heather at 748-7511.
Editor’s Note: With pride, Hazel’s husband was in pulmonary rehab taking pictures while I was there, so I actually was able to speak to both of them. Keith Clark is an organ tech, one of the few left in the country, and he laughingly stated that he’s the youngest and it’s a dying art. He travels throughout the northeast fixing organs of every make and model.