Have you ever tried to breathe through a straw? Well imagine trying to do that while running on a treadmill. This is what it's like living with a chronic lung disease. Lung issues usually can't be cured, but there is a program that is helping patients manage their conditions and improve their life.
She used to run from the treadmill, now Ann Stein runs on it. You see, her shortness of breath used to make even the simplest of tasks extremely difficult.
"Just going up the stairs at home was very difficult and now I'm pretty good at it!" Said Stein.
Ann has battled bronchitis which is a form of COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
"It's a condition in which the airways in the lungs get narrowed and damaged making it hard for the air to get in and out of the lungs." Said Dr. Mohammad Alsumrain, a pulmonologist at Avera St. Luke's Hospital.
With it getting harder to breathe, Ann came to the Aberdeen Family YMCA the home of Avera St. Luke's pulmonary rehab. This is the maintenance class which helps keep patients from huffing and puffing.
"Training them on the breathing exercise and how to breathe and even strengthening the upper extremities and getting them some strength to walk around and do more activity that significantly helps their quality of life and helps improve their lung function." Said Dr. Alsumrain.
Exercise is the most important aspect of pulmonary rehab and under a respiratory therapist's watchful eye, patients can safely push their bodies and their lungs.
"They check our oxygen and they check our heartbeat and they just keep an eye on us and make sure were not overdoing it." Said Stein.
Orville Johnson has been in the program since May after his COPD reached its tipping point.
"Just couldn't get any air and my heart gave out because I couldn't get any oxygen." Said Johnson.
the lung damage caused by COPD usually isn't reversible but with hard work patients have been able to make huge strides in their endurance.
"When I first started on the treadmill after a minute and a half I was played out. I mean I couldn't do it no more, just one minute and a half! Now I'm up to 30 minutes!" Said Johnson.
"I can breathe a lot better and my distance is much better, I can with more weights and for a long period of time, I can do more sets of 15, it's just wonderful!." Said Stein.
Pulmonary rehab is about teaching as much as it is about training. The ultimate goal is to have patients like Orville and Ann take these exercises home and continue their road to breathing easy.
"It makes me feel good because I probably wouldn't be worth a darn right now if the doctor hadn't said hey you want to try this and I give it a whirl." Said Johnson.
"I want to just keep healthy keep strong and be able to do whatever it is I need to do without too much problem. That's my goal!" Said Stein.
Pulmonary rehab starts at the hospital with a six week program and then graduates move to the Family YMCA to continue their maintenance program. For more information about pulmonary rehab just call 877-AT-AVERA.