Never Give Up
by Kathy Wolford

I went to my pulmonologist -- the only one in town -- for 10 years for asthma before I was diagnosed with COPD in Oct. of 2002.  He diagnosed that late, because a cardiologist had been treating me for cor pulmonale for three years.  The pulmo gave me all the right meds, but he was not aggressive.  We never discussed smoking, except for him to ask periodically how many I was smoking or how were my efforts to quit going.  We never discussed the consequences.

But my 02 level was dropping gradually, he said, and I was SOB with little exertion and my heart would pound after exertion and I was flabby and totally out of shape and thought I would die soon from a heart attack or stroke, as most of my ancestors had done.

So, the week my pulmo said I may have to go on 02, he had opened a new pulmonary rehab program at the local hospital and encouraged me to go.  BC/BS paid for 2 hours 45 minutes a day 3 days a week for 7 weeks.  The first day of rehab they did a 6-minute walk and put me on the treadmill, and, by the time I got home, the 02 company and RT were waiting.  I had been on 02 for a while after asthma attacks and then been given concentrators and compressed gas tanks.  That was a help to me in comparison, because now I got Helios, which seemed much nicer to me with the lightweight portable I could put in a belt pack and be hands free, and the mother unit was much quieter than the old concentrators I'd had.

Soon after, PFT results that showed my FEV1 was 33%, plus I had restrictive disease.

All of this rocked me emotionally.  It was one of two times in my life when I was totally devastated and didn't know what to think, feel or do or what would become of me.  I knew only that I had to move one foot in front of the other and try to have faith.

Not knowing anything better to do, I did everything the therapists told me to do.  When the PT said do such and such on the treadmill or sitting stepper, I did it.  When the RT said do this lung exercise for 15 minutes now, I did it.  When the OT said do these hand weight exercises at home every other day, I did it.  Within a few weeks, I was getting muscles in places where I didn't realize there were muscles.  I had more energy.  I could now lean over and, say, clean a litter box without getting SOB.  It became clear that the more I exercised, the better I felt, so I really threw myself into it.

The inches melted away until my entire wardrobe does not fit.  Joint pain is almost gone.  I also made a number of small changes in my home, to make things easier.  Just in case, I made out a will, power of attorney and living will and discussed arrangements for the love of my life: my dog.

Once we graduate from rehab, we can go back one hour three days a week, which I do.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not thin.  (The head of rehab says the BMI doesn't apply to me any more because of the amount of muscle I have and I love her for it.)  I eat, however, almost anything I want but have smaller portions.  (Of course, I do what I can to follow a low salt, low cholesterol diet.)   I am still losing weight.  I am still smoking but am down to 10 a day with encouragement from the cardiologist.

Six months after diagnosis, I found EFFORTS and you know what a difference that makes.  Without EFFORTS, I'm not sure I would have adjusted emotionally yet and I certainly wouldn't have the information to deal well with the disease, 02 supplier, pulmo, other doctors, etc.

I will always be grateful to my pulmo for starting the rehab program, and I think I get fairly good service from him because I go armed with info from EFFORTS.

I am still working, although I cut my hours last month, and want to continue working as long as I can.  I think it's good for me to get out this way; I enjoy what I do; and I am well paid for it.  My medical insurance through the state is also dependent on me continuing to work.

I think on a quality of life scale of 1 to 10, I was at 3 before rehab and am at 8 now.  I think I could go higher if I ever learn how to cope with myself.


Text and Images, this page: 2004 EFFORTS
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