July 10, 2017
My Story Part 2 Respiratory Rehabilitation
February 22, 2016 (Back then)
I am attending Respiratory Rehabilitation for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. This is the beginning of another chapter that takes me back to the hospital for another 12 weeks.
My timeline of doctor appointments for February 2016
Feb 4, Pulmonary Doctor
Feb 11, Family Doctor
Feb 19, Pulmonary Doctor
Feb 19, Family Doctor
Feb 22 Respiratory Rehabilitation Clinic Inpatient
Thankfully, I live in a health care city. It used to be THE STEEL CITY but that slowly changed over 30 years and now Hamilton is a major health care hub for Southern Ontario. We have 4 major Centres of Excellence that includes
- Heart and Head trauma,
- Lung and Kidney,
We have many step-down clinics and supports for everything including gender and age based care. If your loved ones are in an accident and they are taken to Hamilton, just know they are in rough shape also in the hands of the best Doctors and nurses…..bar none.
When I had my first attack, I was transported to the hospital with the first available bed. That’s the way it is in Canada. Everyone gets treated, priorities first, but you don’t get too much to say about where you get treated. The task is to stabilise the patient and bring in the proper specialist to follow to manage it.
All of these hospitals under the Center of Excellence share resources, intellectual property and human capital. What they are not always able to share is equipment.
When specialise equipment is needed, the patient is transferred to other locations because plain and simple it is cheaper to move the patient then to duplicate resources.
In essence, I was in the wrong hospital and they could do little more than stabilise me and get me hooked up with a specialist. They did an amazing job.
I was lucky enough to obtain a referral and an appointment with one of the best doctors at The Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health.
I didn’t know it then, but that doctor would save my life and thankfully he would become my Pulmonary Specialist. I will be eternally grateful to him and his staff for their superb care. He had me on an action plan to be admitted back to hospital and attend Rehab but before I could attend I had to be stabilised. He felt I was in lung failure and in danger of a re-occurrence. I had just spent a week in a coma followed by a month of no exertion. Pryor to that, for a good four years I had done little or no exercising, was virtually hiding my symptoms and was living a sedentary life. I was constantly short of breath and doing as little exertion as possible it was the exact opposite of what I needed to stay alive.
They tried a few methods of steroid injections and eliminating and adding or changing drugs to speed up the process. One of the drugs that were causing me problems was the Beta Blockers. They made me feel like I was carrying an extra 30 lbs. I agreed to go off of the beta blocker since heart tests had been negative for any issues or disease. I had an entire team of 10 people working with me to achieve that one goal of getting strong enough for rehab.
Among the chaos in walked this tiny lady who would yield much power over my rehab. She would be my Respiratory Therapist once I was admitted and as we made eye contact she must have felt my confusion and fear about the process. She came right up to me and whispered in my ear, “It’s OK Barbara, I know it is intimidating now with all these people working on you but we are going to get you walking again. Just you wait and see.” Interesting I thought, to walk again would be a novelty. I couldn’t walk across the kitchen to get a glass of water most nights and she was making these lofty promises of walking again. I had not walked for so long that I had forgotten that feeling of freedom to just walk and think and be in the moment. I thought “Oh, you may have gotten others doing it but not me, for I am far too sick….”
I resisted Rehab at every turn pleading my advance stages of COPD and being far too sick for repair. I didn’t want to go at all especially after just getting out of hospital but with the urging and insistence of my daughter and therefore the rest of my family, I was admitted to the inpatient program and stayed as a guest in the hospital for 4 weeks coming home every weekend. Then I was discharged and spent another 8 weeks as an out-patient and attended Rehab every afternoon.
It turned out that Respiratory Rehab was the best thing that ever happened to me and I strongly urge anyone given this gift and who has the opportunity and is brave enough to attend.
Rehab opened my eyes to the joys and benefits of exertion, exercise and education. I saw many people at various stages of this nasty disease with various lung disorders and diseases. I began to realise the severity of this illness and buckled up to educate myself to save my life.
It is not just about the exercise; Rehab has a few other important components including education by experts including a Pharmacist, Nutritionist, Physio, Occupation and Respiratory Therapist, Psychologist and graduates of the program.
We learned about the whole body, about breathing, meditation, strengthening, mental health, socialization, diet as well as community and government supports.
They started me off slowly with simple stretches and built up my endurance. I was thrilled to be able to use the peddler
for my arms and upper body and Nu Step for my legs.
I was using 5 lb weights for upper body stretches
and 10 lb weights on my ankles for leg stretches. I was very soon strong enough to stop using oxygen.
I used a walker and walked around my block on weekends when I was home. I got the mail and met the neighbours and felt like a new person. I worked harder than I could ever have imagined.After my time at Rehab I would return to work and begin my new life.