Brenda Janes was caught off guard last year when she was diagnosed with a serious lung disease.
An active mother and grandmother, the non-smoker was concerned when she started experiencing shortness of breath— particularly in cold weather. “Whenever I went out to feed the dog or take out the trash, the cold air just killed my lungs,” she said. Brenda’s husband urged her to visit the doctor, so she made an appointment with Advanced Practice Nurse Lori Nottmeyer, APRN, who practices at the SBL Family Medical Center in Mattoon.
After undergoing numerous tests, Brenda was referred to a pulmonologist and diagnosed with interstitial lung disease, a term used to describe a large group of disorders that cause progressive scarring of lung tissue. The scarring causes stiffness in the lungs, which makes it difficult to breathe.
“I was relieved that it wasn’t pulmonary fibrosis, like the doctor first thought, but it was an eye opener,” she said. “It’s basically an autoimmune disorder that’s irreversible.” Brenda also learned that the disease is unpredictable. It might run a gradual course or a rapid course, depending on the individual, and symptoms can vary from very mild to moderate to very severe. Brenda began taking medication designed to slow the disease progression, and she began oxygen therapy 24 hours a day.
She also enrolled in the pulmonary rehabilitation classes offered through Sarah Bush Lincoln’s Monitored Exercise Testing Services (METS). She credits Nottmeyer for recommending the classes and the METS instructors for motivating her to take charge of her health.
By faithfully attending class twice a week for more than a year and sticking to a weight-loss program, Brenda says she feels better than she has in a long time. “I feel great. I can’t help but smile all the time now because I feel so good. I want to get out and do things,” she said. “METS is what has gotten me on the right path.” Brenda said that she had never exercised before, but the professionals in METS showed her how to do it safely and successfully. “I’ve lost 48 pounds and my breathing and energy level have gotten so much better,” she said.
Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a program of exercise, COPD/lung disease education and support that helps people with lung diseases learn to breathe – and function – at the highest levels possible. Brenda remembers feeling significantly better after just a few sessions. “It really affects your mood in a positive way, and I looked forward to attending each session,” she said. “I absolutely love it. The instructors are excellent. They’re so helpful and they always have a lot of good information.”
Pulmonary Rehabilitation Therapist Coordinator Cathy Matheny, RRT, said. “Our goal is simply to improve the health of people like Brenda who are living with chronic lung diseases, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder.”
“Exercising is often the last thing that people with chronic lung diseases feel like doing, but it’s near the top of the list of the things they should do to alleviate their symptoms,” Matheny said. “We start people at a very low level and allow them to work their way up.” While exercise does not directly improve lung function, it helps the body use oxygen better, improves muscle tone and strength, and builds endurance levels.
Brenda is now less dependent on oxygen therapy, but she always has it close by. “It’s been a comfort knowing that I have something that will help, so I use it when I need it,” she said. Speaking of her illness, she added, “I still have days when it might bother me a little more than others, but it’s a lot better than it was a year ago.”
Brenda enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, and she helps her husband, Harlan, with his home improvement business. She was excited to join his construction crew on its annual boat outing on Lake Shelbyville in August, an event she missed the previous year due to her illness.
The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is located in the METS Department at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Heart Center. For more information about Pulmonary Rehabilitation classes, call 217 238-4973.
While shortness of breath often limits what a person with chronic lung disease can do, pulmonary rehabilitation can help.
an initial assessment with a registered respiratory therapist supervised exercise sessions and education by respiratory therapists, nurses and exercise physiologists
more physical exercise, psychosocial support, better quality of life
fewer symptoms and fewer complications, fewer emergency department visits and hospital stays, improved daily function, greater independence