YORK COUNTY, MAINE – Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week, March 11-17, will highlight a theme of "Adding Inspiration to Your Life." The week is a celebration of the successes of Pulmonary Rehabilitation in the care of individuals with chronic lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma.
Helen Fournier is one of those successes at Southern Maine Medical Center (SMMC). Helen was diagnosed with chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) in 2011. She had been experiencing shortness of breath with activity for several years and a consultation with a lung specialist confirmed that she had COPD and needed to be on oxygen. "I was devastated," stated Helen. "Is this forever? Will I always be tethered to this oxygen tank?" The answer was yes. Her physician told her she would need to be on oxygen for the rest of her life. In addition to oxygen therapy, Pulmonary Rehabilitation was also recommended.
The SMMC Pulmonary Rehabilitation Team of physicians, respiratory therapists, nurses, exercise professionals and dietitians work together with each participant to develop a program of exercise and education that focuses on improving their physical fitness and quality of life. Using aerobic exercise and strength training, breathing techniques, participants are able to improve their ability to perform every day activities, reduce breathlessness and maximize their independence. Despite her shortness of breath, Helen had been swimming regularly three days a week. The SMMC Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program offered her the opportunity to continue exercise in a hospital setting. "I was very afraid, but knew I really needed to do this. After working with the staff that fear just disappeared. I started slowly and with the help of Chris (Chris Dunn, Clinical Exercise Physiologist) was able to do more than I ever thought I could," added Helen. Helen continues to exercise at SMMC’s Life Fitness Program three days a week. The Life Fitness Program allows graduates of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation to continue exercising in a safe environment with familiar staff. "I love to swim but couldn’t do it with the oxygen," Helen said. "Being able to continue exercising here with Chris and Katy (Katy Maislen, Fitness Specialist) has made up for not being able to go to the pool." In addition to exercise, education and support are provided to assist individuals in the development of healthy lifestyles that promote physical and emotional well-being. Participants learn to manage their chronic lung disease. Helen noted, "The classes were great, I learned so much about COPD and what I need to do. One of my biggest struggles was getting use to the oxygen, getting the right equipment. Christina (Christina LaBrecque, Respiratory Therapist) and Katherine (Katherine Murdough, RN) helped me find the best oxygen device for me; I had no idea how many different devices were available." Helen also participates in the Better Breathers Club of Southern Maine, a support group for individuals with chronic lung disease. "It’s a great to be able to talk to others in same predicament, and continue learning about COPD." Individuals experiencing shortness of breath, cough, fatigue and decreased physical abilities, may attribute these symptoms to "getting older". These complaints are often the first signs of chronic lung disease. Individuals with these symptoms should talk to their primary care provider.
Simple spirometry testing is available to assist physicians in identifying persons who have COPD. Because the #1 cause of COPD is cigarette smoking, the single most important thing anyone can do to improve their health is quit smoking. If you are a smoker and would like to quit, SMMC offers the "Be Tobacco Free" Smoking Cessation Program free of charge beginning the first Monday evening of each month. For more information, call 283-7272. SMMC also encourages any member of the community affected by lung disease to join the Better Breathers Club of Southern Maine, a support group which meets the second Wednesday of each month form 1:00 – 2:30 pm at SMMC PrimeCare, Biddeford.
For more information, call 283-7789. Southern Maine Medical Center (SMMC) is a national award-winning healthcare system including a medical center offering excellent clinical care, a multi-specialty physician services group and an affiliation with HomeHealth Visiting Nurses.
SMMC features Maine's newest state-of-the-art emergency and fast track care as well as a full range of inpatient and outpatient services at its 150-bed acute care medical center. SMMC's physician services offers high quality medical care through offices located in Biddeford, Kennebunk, Old Orchard Beach, and Saco and a wide array of outpatient services at its diagnostic and therapy centers in Saco, Kennebunk, and Biddeford. SMMC is Joint Commission accredited, state-licensed, and is a member of the MaineHealth system.