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New Ulm Medical Center

Pulmonary rehabilitation can help patients live with chronic lung issues

For people living with chronic lung problems, every day can be a challenge. Fighting for each breath makes just walking across the room seem like a monumental task. Usually there is no “cure” for chronic lung issues such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), severe asthma, or cystic fibrosis. But there are ways to improve your quality of life through pulmonary rehabilitation.

New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) will begin offering pulmonary rehabilitation this spring. The goals of pulmonary rehab are:

  • improve quality of life
  • obtain more independence and less dependence on others
  • reduce hospitalizations and doctor visits
  • reduce respiratory symptoms
  • reverse anxiety and disease-related stress
  • increase knowledge about COPD and related lung disease
  • increase exercise ability
  • achieve better ability to perform activities of daily living
  • increase survival (in some people)
  • return to work (for some people)

The pulmonary rehab program will be led by NUMC respiratory therapists Sandy Orr and Sheila Friske; and occupational therapist Shari Meyer from the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – New Ulm.

“Pulmonary rehab is not a cure,” said Orr. “This gives patients the tools to live with their condition.”

The first step in pulmonary rehab is evaluation of each patient to see what their needs would be. Following that individual assessment, the patient would start a six- to eight-week program. Classes or sessions will be approximately two hours, two days each week. Patients are also expected to work on some of the techniques and exercises at home.

“We will provide them not only with education about their disease and disease process so they can have a knowledge of how their lungs are working with their disease, but we’ll also teach them exercises so they can cope with shortness of breath better,” said Friske. “We will also help them with their respiratory medications. There are a lot respiratory related medications out there and some of the patients may be using the wrong technique.”

Anxiety is known to go hand-in-hand with shortness of breath, Orr said, and they will also give patients the tools to deal with that.

“This service is going to be so beneficial for our patients who have lung problems,” Friske said. “Because every activity is a struggle for them, they often don’t travel far. So having this education opportunity nearby will make a big difference.”

There are currently fewer than 25 pulmonary rehabilitation programs in Minnesota and North Dakota combined.

For more information about pulmonary rehabilitation, call the NUMC Respiratory Therapy Department at 507-233-1128.