•  Graduate credits Rome Memorial Hospital’s Pulmonary Rehab program with getting her life back

    “I just wanted to be able to make the bed.”
    It may not seem like much of a task, but breathing problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, had made this simple daily chore impossible for Sandy Grifasi, of Rome.
    After a few months of therapy and education through Rome Memorial Hospital’s outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation program, Sandy is not only making beds, she is going to church, enjoying dinner out with her husband Ned, even dancing.

     Pulmonary Rehabilitation 
    GETTING STRONGER – Sandy Grifasi, of Rome, discusses her therapy with Lynda Ferris, coordinator of Rome Memorial Hospital Pulmonary Rehabilitation program.  Grifasi was once housebound and barely able to stand for any length of time due to declining health made worse by her breathing problems. Now, thanks to the program, Sandy has learned how to better manage her breathing, is gaining strength though exercise, and is able to get out and enjoy her life. 


    In just five short years, Sandy had gone from managing her daily routines to being practically bedridden. Recuperation from four major heart surgeries and lack of activity during her months of recovery caused Sandy’s breathing problems to become even worse. She eventually was prescribed round-the-clock oxygen use.
    “I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want anyone to see me like that,” Sandy said of the oxygen tubes in her nose. Before she knew it, Sandy found herself homebound, unable to even stand for any length of time and totally dependent on Ned. About the only place that Sandy would go was to her medical appointments. While at the doctor’s office one day, she ran into a friend who asked her if she had considered pulmonary rehab.
    “I didn’t even know there was such a thing,” Sandy said.
    The friend told Sandy about her own husband’s experience with the program. “She said he had been through the program and graduated, and it had made an incredible difference for him,” Sandy explained. “She told me I really should try it.”
    “In Pulmonary Rehab, we help people with chronic lung disease achieve their highest possible functional status,” explained Lynda Ferris, MS, RRT, coordinator of the program. “This is done by setting up an individualized treatment plan for each person aimed at his/her specific goals and then working with them on education and exercise to help them achieve these goals.”
    “When I first started, I told Lynda I had three goals,” Sandy said. “I wanted to be able to make a bed, I wanted to be able to vacuum a room, and I wanted to be able to help my husband in the garden a little bit. By the time I graduated from Pulmonary Rehab, I had done all three.”
    Sandy said it wasn’t easy at first. “In the beginning, I thought ‘Oh my goodness, this is going to be impossible.’ The first time I tried to walk on the treadmill I couldn’t even go two minutes. I tried the bicycle and it felt like my legs just couldn’t move. Now I am up to 10 to 12 minutes on the bicycle and I lift weights and exercise to build muscle. I still get tired, but I know how to recover better now because of what I have learned in Pulmonary Rehab.”
    Part of the educational aspect of Pulmonary Rehab is learning how to breathe. “I am always going to have breathing problems, so this information is absolutely priceless to me,” Sandy said. “Before Pulmonary Rehab, I had been breathing through my mouth all the time. I would not have been able to use the portable oxygen unit I now use when I go out, because it requires you to breathe through your nose. I had to learn to do that all over again.”
    Now that she is stronger, Sandy has gotten over her embarrassment about her oxygen use and is getting out more. Thanks to a small portable oxygen tank, she has been able to get back to some of the activities she really enjoys like shopping, going out to dinner with her husband and getting together with her girlfriends. This lightweight unit emits oxygen only when Sandy inhales so it does not empty as quickly, allowing her to be out and about for 4-6 hours without having to lug around a heavy oxygen tank.
    “I am just thrilled to death to be able to do things again,” Sandy said. “I would highly recommend Pulmonary Rehab to anyone who has breathing problems.”
    In fact, Sandy has done just that. “People have come up to me to ask about my portable oxygen and I tell them about it,” Sandy said. “One woman wanted to know because her husband needed oxygen and was not able to leave home much. I told her about the oxygen and then I told her about Pulmonary Rehab and what it has done for me.”
    “Patients do need a doctor’s referral, but it does not need to be from a pulmonologist,” Ferris explained. “If a patient is interested, he/she can speak with their primary care physician and the doctor’s office can call us for a referral form. We fax the referral form directly to the doctor’s office with instructions.”
    Most health insurance plans cover Pulmonary Rehab, according to Ferris, although a co-pay may be required. “The maximum number of sessions is 36, but most patients complete the program in fewer than that because it is tailored to each patient’s needs,” she explained. “The exact number varies, but the typical range is 18-24 visits.”
    Sandy took a little longer, at 29 sessions, primarily because she was in and out of the hospital mid-way through the program due to a separate health issue.
    “In order to graduate we want to see patients meet mutually set education, home and exercise goals,” Ferris said. “We ask them if they feel ready to graduate and encourage them to continue to move forward in the maintenance program.”
    Pulmonary Rehab maintenance sessions are not covered by insurance and cost $35 per month for two sessions a week and $45 per month for three sessions per week.
    Sandy says she will continue going to maintenance for as long as she can. She admitted that she would not be as likely to keep up an exercise program at home. “The other Pulmonary Rehab patients motivate you,” she explained. “You see people that are doing much better than you and you think ‘if they can do that I can do it’ or you see people that are not doing as well as you are and you think about how far you have come.” Plus, Sandy said she would not be where she is today without the encouragement of Lynda and her staff.
    “I’m still going to have problems breathing, but I want to be able to do things,” Sandy said. “I don’t know what I would do without my husband. He has really taken great care of me. Now it just makes me feel so good to be able to take back some of the daily chores and take some of the burden off of him. Thanks to Pulmonary Rehab, I feel as if I am actually starting to lead somewhat of a life again.”
    For more information about Rome Memorial Hospital’s Pulmonary Rehab program, call 338-7149.