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Via Christi Pulmonary Rehab program helps emphysema patient

Pulmonary rehab patient Jan Gold

By the time Jan Gold was diagnosed with emphysema 20 years ago, some of life’s simplest tasks had become a chore.

Once perpetually on the go, climbing the stairs and cleaning the house now left her breathless as her lungs were no longer able to fully expand and contract, trapping old, stale air inside. 

“I used to go on walks, to the health club and took great pleasure in gardening,” says Jan. “But I started getting tired, short of breath and would start coughing, so I began to scale back.”

She went from taking shorter walks to curtailing many of her activities altogether.

Her life reversed course in January 2012 after her physician referred her to the Via Christi Pulmonary Rehabilitation program.

“I had a severe flu with bronchial symptoms that weren’t clearing up and my physician thought the program could help me better manage my disease,” says Jan.

It did that and more, she says.

“When I finally started the program in May, I couldn’t walk for five minutes on the treadmill and could only manage 10 minutes on a step bike,” says Jan. Within two months, she was up to doing 30 minutes on the bike and 14 minutes on the treadmill.

“Pulmonary rehabilitation along with smoking cessation, are two of the most important modes of treatment for patients with COPD and emphysema,” says Jennifer Jackson, MD, who serves as its medical director.

“For patients like Jan, our program can help them increase their levels of exercise, control their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life,” says Dr. Jackson.     

Jan, whose work-out routine today includes a 30-minute walk, followed by resistance training using the program’s weight machines, is living proof.

The program has also helped her learn ways to better manage her condition, such as using oxygen when doing strenuous activities like vacuuming her home. 

“Plus, it’s given me more confidence because I know my limits now.”

Although she’s completed the Via Christi Pulmonary Rehabilitation program, she continues to participate in the maintenance program, which she says has helped her maintain and continually improve her activity level.

“It’s very affirming to see others like me go through the program and improve,” says Jan.

“When I began the program, I visited with a woman who credited Via Christi with saving her life. At the time, I thought it was perhaps an exaggeration. But I now think they may have saved my life, too.”


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