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Iredell Health System Celebrates the Distinctiveness of Pulmonary Rehab

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Most people in good health don’t struggle to breathe, but for some individuals who aren’t in the best of health, breathing can be a big deal. Thankfully, Iredell Health System’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation department can help.

National Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week occurs just one month after Cardiac Rehabilitation Week, but the two areas are uniquely different. While the goal of cardiac rehab can be to help the patient achieve their optimal physical shape, pulmonary rehab enables individuals to breathe and function at an optimal level.

“At times their goal is simply to be able to get out of bed and to the bathroom faucet and back because they don’t know how to breathe,” said Lisa Warren, director of Iredell’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation department. “One patient may have the goal of being able to get dressed without resting. Another may have the goal of eating a meal without having to stop and breathe in between. It’s amazing to watch these folks learn how to breathe and see what a difference this makes in their lives.”

Pulmonary rehab focuses on breathing techniques to help pulmonary patients who tend to feel anxious, helping them calm down, breathe appropriately, and increase their activity.

While exercise is the key factor to cardiac rehab and is unquestionably important to pulmonary rehab as well, the key factor to successful pulmonary rehab is education.

“We’ll have folks come in who have been using inhalers for years, and nobody’s ever shown them how to use them,” Warren said. “And when they learn how to use them, they’re surprised they work!”

“The education elements are really neat,” said Angela Little, a respiratory therapist who worked at Iredell Memorial Hospital for 14 years before recently transitioning to Cardiopulmonary Rehab. “A lot of patients come in whose home care provider has brought them oxygen, put it in the house, and just walked out. The patients didn’t know a whole lot about it. We provide thorough education which goes above and beyond.”

While cardiac rehab sessions are one hour, pulmonary sessions are 90 minutes.

“That gives us more time to provide education and allow patients to rest,” Warren said. “Around the gym, we have a rest box at each corner so if they have to stop and rest, they can.”

Pulmonary rehab focuses particularly on helping patients stay out of the hospital.

“Readmission for pulmonary patients can be very high,” Warren said, “but we teach them ways to take care of themselves at home without needing to go to the emergency room.”

Little emphasized her appreciation of Cardiopulmonary Rehab’s personal approach.

“We do a lot of work with patients one-on-one. I’m able to get to know our patients and work with them personally.”