Coping with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Last fall, Liz Kiely could hardly breathe or walk from her kitchen to her bedroom. Her condition became so grave that she wound up in Saddleback Medical Center’s intensive care unit, fighting for life.

Twenty-four million people live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), yet 12 million remain undiagnosed. Until her hospitalization, Liz was among those who are unaware they have this very serious lung disorder.

After 15 days in the hospital, Liz was able to go home, and soon began a nine-week outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation program at Saddleback Medical Center to learn to manage her condition.

A Fresh Start

“At first, I had no strength whatsoever. I was one of the worst in the class,” admits Liz. The rehab team gave her the tools for coping with shortness of breath and the anxiety it caused. They taught her what to eat, how to listen to her body and when to notify her doctor. She adds, “The therapists taught me how to live again.”

“Pulmonary rehab programs significantly lower COPD flare-ups and prevent hospitalizations,” says David C. Law, M.D., medical director of respiratory care at Saddleback Medical Center. “Patients love our program because it brings better endurance, disease awareness and self-management.”

Liz went to Saddleback Medical Center’s Fitness First Gym in Laguna Hills twice a week for monitored exercise. She was so pleased with her progress that she chose to continue working out through the center’s new, low-cost maintenance program. “I look forward to going,” says Liz. “It’s exciting to maintain and even improve the new level of activity I’ve been able to achieve.”

Early Detection Provides Protection

People with COPD often avoid activities they used to enjoy because they easily become short of breath. Early detection is the key to managing this condition.

“It’s important to catch COPD early, long before hospitalization is needed,” says Dr. Law. “Shortness of breath is not a normal function of aging. If you’ve been extra tired or short of breath, let your doctor know.”

A lot can be done to improve pulmonary function, and Liz is a perfect example. “I’m able to walk my dog every day and watch my
grandson’s ball games,” she says. “I feel like a walking miracle.”

To learn more about Saddleback Medical Center’s pulmonary rehabilitation program or Lung & Respiratory Care at Saddleback Medical Center.