Cardiopulmonary rehab breathes new life into COPD patient
All the wind had gone out of Jim Tomlinson’s sails. He had suffered from asthma since childhood, and the chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) he eventually developed was making life miserable for the retired church music minister from Norris.
After a bout with a type of pseudo-pneumonia during Christmas 2014 hospitalized him for 10 days, followed by another two weeks of bed rest, Tomlinson was at wit’s end. “I was weak and trying to get all this stuff out of my system and get back to normal again,” he said. “But a year later, I was still having to either go back to my doctor, to a clinic or to the ER almost every four to six weeks. I finally told the doctor, ‘There’s got to be something better than this!’”
He found that “something better” in Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center’s cardiopulmonary rehab program. The 36-session program ultimately got Tomlinson in such “shipshape” that he and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on an Alaskan cruise with almost 70 other COPD shipmates referred to as Sea Puffers.
“They took care of everything,” Tomlinson said of the two registered respiratory therapists who led the cruise. “If you needed oxygen, they’ve got it. If you need anything else, they’ve got it. Wheelchairs? Scooters? Got it. They just had everything set up for us. But it was because of the people at Fort Sanders Regional rehab that we got this trip.”
The cardiopulmonary rehabilitation team of specially trained nurses, respiratory therapists, dietitians and exercise physiologists guided him through exercise, diet and classroom instruction. It not only helped him regain his strength, but also increased his lung capacity and helped him shed pounds and learn to manage his COPD.
“A lot of things we already knew, but it was good to be reminded of them, like, ‘What is COPD and what does it do to you?’” said Tomlinson’s wife, Sandi, who accompanied him to each session. “When he first started his COPD journey, we didn’t know what to do. But to have a plan of action – that’s what we have now. It gives you a little bit of control.”
“What they taught us, we took to heart and we applied it,” said Tomlinson. “It certainly educated us to the point that I have a better life, and I’m going to enjoy it.”