GETTING HER LIFE BACK: FOR HER AND HER DOGS
Her illness stole her long hikes in the mountains with her dogs and rendered her a prisoner in her recliner for as much as 10 hours at a time and days in a row. She no longer had the strength to fight her battle; her illness had taken its toll.
Alene Missy Bacons troubles started in the fall of 2010 when she became winded while out walking her dogs. She developed a cough and found that she tired more easily than she used to. She attributed her condition to her busy lifestyle, what with her horses and dogs consuming much of her time. But when the fatigue consumed her, she knew something was amuck, so did her husband, Tony.
She fought her battle until March of 2011, when, at the urging of her husband she decided to see a physician. She was first diagnosed with a viral infection in her lungs that was causing an inflammatory response. She was given antibiotics and put on Albuterol. After several attempts to get Missy back on her feet, it became obvious that her condition wasnt improving and that she needed more specialized services. She was referred to Dr. Obermiller, a Pulmonologist with Rocky Mountain Heart and Lung out of Kalispell, and her first visit with him was in October of 2011.
At that initial visit, Missy was asked to do a 6-minute walk test; she didnt make it 60 seconds. She was diagnosed with Adult Onset Asthma and mild COPD, but because she had battled her disease for so long her body had deteriorated beyond her lung condition. After walking with Dr. Obermiller for less than one minute, my heart rate and blood pressure spiked up so high that they wouldnt even let me try to complete the test, stated Missy. It was clear that because Id been sick for so long, my whole body needed rehabilitation, not just my lungs. Dr. Obermiller referred me to the pulmonary rehabilitation program at St. Johns.
All I wanted was my life back; I missed playing with my dogs. So when Dr. Obermiller suggested pulmonary rehabilitation, I thought this might be my chance to get back to normal. Before I was referred to this program, I had started giving up all hope that I would ever be normal again.
Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a 36-session course that meets twice a week and is designed to provide comprehensive care to individuals with pulmonary disease including, but not limited to emphysema, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, asbestos related disease, and alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency. Once enrolled in the program, participants work with a team of pulmonary rehab specialists including a medical director, nurses, respiratory therapists, and dieticians to create a program that will be the most effective for the individual. We set realistic goals with the patient in order to get them started on their way to better health and improved quality of life, stated Elisabeth Erickson, RN, and Pulmonary Rehab Coordinator at St. Johns. In addition to that, we offer weekly education classes on a variety of topics including anatomy and physiology of cardiac/respiratory systems, pulmonary medications, lung diseases, conserving energy, stress and depression, sleep apnea, nutrition, advanced directives, and fitness. We recently added a testimonial class to this schedule so that our current patients can see a real life glimpse of the benefits of pulmonary rehab.
Pulmonary Rehab can benefit patients who have shortness of breath that limits their daily activities, want to learn more about their disease and ways to manage it, want to learn ways to breathe more efficiently, or who want to attain the highest level of independent function.
Unfortunately, Missys entry into rehab wasnt as easy as one would think. When she started the program at SJLH, she was asked to do another 6-minute walk test. I made it the whole six minutes this time, but I had to stop 2 or 3 times, and I walked at a grannys pace; very slow. But before long, it was time for me to get on the treadmill and start exercising. I wasnt even five minutes into my first walk, at a very slow pace with zero incline, when all of my monitors started going off. Missys blood pressure had risen to 200/132, and the pulmonary staff had to ask her to stop. They informed her that for her own safety she could not continue on with the program until she saw her doctor and got her blood pressure under control.
The next day, Missy ended up in the Emergency Room at St. Johns. I couldnt even walk 10 steps without stopping. But when I got to the emergency room, they made sure that I received the correct medications, and I was able to start the program again the next week, added Missy.
By the time Missy completed the program, she had gone from walking on the treadmill for less than 5 minutes at a time to completing an entire hour of exercise without stopping. She walked 600 more feet on her post program 6-minute walk test than when she first started, and she lost 22 pounds during the course of her 36 sessions.
On top of all of that good news, Missy was able to walk with her dogs again! When Missy returned to Dunn Creek with her dogs for the first time since she became ill, it was extremely emotional for her. I knew that I was back. And my dogs did too; they ran around like crazy. When I was sick, they didnt get much exercise, and I know that they missed that. They missed me too. I realized during that walk that my life wasnt over and that I could come back from this. I knew I could have my life backthere would be adjustments, but I could still live a full life and not have to let my illness control me.
Erickson is thrilled with Missys results and couldnt be happier that she has been able to return to her normal lifestyle. For many graduates, including Missy, this program has been able to control and alleviate symptoms, improve energy and the ability to perform daily activities, increase exercise tolerance, decrease anxiety and depression commonly associated with pulmonary disease, maximize lung function, improve lifestyle by weight loss and smoking cessation, and increase their circle of friends to include others who share the same symptoms. Missy was a great addition to the class. She was optimistic and that was contagious to those around her. The improvements she made to her health and quality of life are a great example of what can be accomplished by utilizing the available resources.
Missy couldnt agree more. While I was in the pulmonary rehab, I became a program cheerleader. Everybody in the program is at different levels, we all encouraged each other and seeing each other working hard and getting better is great incentive to keep working hard yourself.
You can get your life back, continued Missy. You just have to want it bad enough. There are people out there who can help you get your life under control. I recommend this program, without a doubt. I wouldnt have gotten better without it. The important thing to remember is that youre never really done with the program. Its a life long journey. After you graduate from pulmonary rehab, you still have to exercise and you still have to eat right. Pulmonary Rehab got me started and it got me healthy.