“I had everything backwards,” says Pat Haxton.
Following her diagnosis with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Pat was avoiding stairs and walking uphill. Like many people diagnosed with this progressive lung disease, Pat interpreted her difficulty breathing as a sign to ease up on activity.
Today, she says she couldn’t have been more mistaken.
A new graduate of the Champion Lung Fitness Program at VGH, Pat is stronger, faster and moving in the right direction.
As a respiratory therapist with the Champion Lung Fitness Program, Nancy Haynes has seen remarkable client transformations over the eight-week program.
“Clients who came in struggling to do things we take for granted — getting up from a chair and walking to the bathroom — graduate with the confidence and the ability to climb stairs,” she says.
Together with Marina Wallin, physiotherapist, Nancy leads the fitness and education program for lung transplant recipients and people living with COPD. These clients represent a broad range of fitness levels and some even rely on portable oxygen tanks to help them breathe. All benefit from the program.
“We can help people with even the most minimal lung function,” says Marina. “We can’t cure COPD, but we can increase clients’ strength and endurance so they don’t have to work as hard to breathe and complete daily tasks.”
“Clients regain control of their lives,” says Nancy, “and with control they gain a better quality of life.”
For Pat, her referral to the Champion Lung Fitness Program was a turning point. “I was really bummed out by my diagnosis and too intimidated to go to a local gym with much younger people,” she says.
At each of the three weekly classes, Pat and her classmates spent one hour exercising — and that’s just the beginning. The program also provides education on a wide range of topics, including nutrition, medication and lung conditions. “I learned something new every day,” says Pat.
By graduation, Pat’s fitness had improved substantially and so had her outlook. “I came to appreciate the moral support I got from the group, from being with people who face a similar struggle and who inspire you.”
Sandy Doucet draws strength from the class camaraderie, too. A graduate who credits the Champion Lung Fitness Program with saving her life, Sandy returns for maintenance classes on a regular basis. One-quarter of all graduates do.
“I never would exercise on my own,” says Sandy, “but I’ve formed friendships, and this keeps me coming back. The program keeps me motivated.”
“As much as we teach, clients learn from each other,” says Nancy. And the results speak for themselves. “Our client evaluations show that graduates experience less shortness of breath and fatigue, and more confidence in living well with lung disease.”
Health care usage statistics are positive, too. “We’ve seen the number of graduates making Emergency Department visits decrease by almost half, and the number admitted to hospital decrease by more than one-third.”
As for Pat, she’s committed to keeping fit — and keeping out of hospital. “The whole experience has been life-changing,” she says.
Interested in learning more about the the Champion Lung Fitness Program? Contact Nancy Haynes
, respiratory therapist , Lung Function Lab