It's something you do tens of thousands of times each day without a second thought, but for some taking a breath can be a challenge.
"I got down pretty bad before, after I came down with COPD before I finally started exercising and everything. Just couldn’t hardly get around to take care of myself."
John Gibson was diagnosed with COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, several years ago. COPD is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult for more than 16 million Americans.
"COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States and it's going up," said Registered Nurse Ruth Anne McKeever with MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center. Heart diseases first, cancer second and those things are going down and COPD is usually preventative."
McKeever works in the MercyOne Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab Center, where Gibson attends class a few times a week for the last few years. Tuesdays and Thursdays are Pulmonary Rehab, with patients who primarily have COPD.
"It makes a big difference," Gibson said, "I'm a firm believer of getting exercise. It’s proved to me that it works."
The rehab center looks like a gym or fitness center, with treadmills, bikes, weight machines and other exercise equipment. Each patient receives a workout routine tailored to their needs and abilities, to help them strengthen their muscles, including their diaphragm. But many, like Gibson, find other benefits, too, not just treatment for COPD.
"There's a lot of advantages too as far as my arthritis," Gibson said. "I’ve got arthritis real bad and just being able to keep my range of motion to where I can move around okay."
The team of dedicated medical professionals at the rehab center helps those diagnosed with COPD through all stages of their disease, from education about their diagnosis to the exercise regimen, and how they can monitor triggers in their everyday lives.
"We teach them ways to make their life easier," said McKeever. "If you've got to carry laundry up and downstairs, how can we make this easier for you? What steps can you take to make your environment easier and more friendly for you?"
For John, he's experienced the benefits of the cardiac and pulmonary rehab center firsthand, especially when he tested positive for COVID-19.
"When I did catch the COVID-19," he said, "I think I was a better shape physically to be able to fend it off and then we have colds and the flu, whatever comes along. It’s keeping you're body healthy and your immune system."
While the workouts and the machines can seem intimidating, the MercyOne team helps each person develop a workout that is right for their abilities.
"We're going to start really slow. We're going to start super slow and will build up as you tolerate," McKeever said of helping their patients find what machine or workout is best for them during each session. "We're going to listen to you. And if you aren’t tolerating something, just communicate, we'll try something else."
John says he plans to continue attending class twice a week for as long as he can. "Just because you're getting old I don't want to sit around and watch TV all the time. Getting out and doing different things and it’s just enjoyable."
Because if it wasn't for the MercyOne Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab team, "you know, I don't know where I'd be if I wouldn't be doing the exercise. Probably be in a nursing home and I’m not ready to go there yet."
November is COPD Awareness Month and if you would like to learn more about the MercyOne Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab Center, you can learn more and contact MercyOne here.
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