“I have emphysema. I should have died ten years ago but instead I quit smoking,” Janet R. wrote on a blog at the American Lung Association’s website. She said that she had smoked for fifty years. Her father died of lung cancer, her mother from complications of emphysema.
“I thought the same couldn’t happen to me until I was rushed to the hospital dying; I then realized how badly I wanted to live,” she wrote.
Janet R. is now pro-active about her health. Is it time for you to do the same? It may be as easy as joining the Better Breathers Club. Let me explain.
Marilyn Cupery, RRT (registered respiratory therapist) is the Cardiopulmonary Clinical Supervisor at Bonner General Health. She was contacted by a representative of the ALA to see if she would be interested in facilitating a program that would help those in our community afflicted by lung disease.
Lucky for us she was. I heard about the Better Breathers Club and contacted Cupery to see if I could sit in on one of their meetings. Mark your calendar: they meet the second Thursday of each month (next one April 12) at 1 p.m. in the classroom at the hospital.
People who have lung disease such as COPD (emphysema, chronic bronchitis), pulmonary fibrosis or lung cancer and/or their caregivers are encouraged to attend.
The meeting I attended was just the second in the series and it was attended by about a dozen people about half and half patient to caregiver if I assessed the room correctly. In keeping with HIPAA no one was asked to reveal any personal information and the group was cautioned to keep what we learned about individuals within the classroom walls.
One woman said, “What happens in Better Breathers Club stays in Better Breathers Club,” and we all had a good laugh.
“We’re here to improve the quality of life for people with lung disease,” Cupery said as she recapped the last meeting. “Some people think lungs look like balloons, but they actually look like sponges. Like upside-down trees. Breathing dust or other particulates, even if you don’t smoke, can cause COPD and other lung diseases.”
This day’s primary speaker was Janet Edwards, a certified respiratory therapist, and the topic of discussion was medications and oxygen therapy.
“We can have all the medicines we need at home, but they don’t do any of us any good if we don’t use them or if we use them incorrectly,” Edwards said. “Even if you start to feel better, it’s important to stay on your medications, because they’re the reason you’re feeling better.”
Edwards explained the differences between short-and long-acting drugs and demonstrated how to properly use an inhaler. From the reaction of the group (we all found ourselves inhaling with her) it seemed obvious that a few people possibly hadn’t been doing it properly.
No one put their hand up when Renee Tibbets, an expert in tobacco cessation with Panhandle Health, asked who currently smoked. However, she still made a great pitch for the Freshstart program for teens and adults and explained the different types of smokers, as in those who smoke habitually or those who smoke because of stress. She said that the program is free to the community and I did notice a few people picking up her cards on the way out.
Over the next several months, the attendees at the Better Breathers Club will learn a lot about controlling their diseases and conditions. Cupery said that she’s mapped out the next ten months of meetings with subjects such as eating properly, understanding the lab work whys and what-fors, physical therapy and BGH medical director, Dr. Charles Crane will attend a meeting to explain how to get the most out of doctor visits.
“Next month we will have staff from social services here to explain how to navigate Medicare and Medicaid and what resources are available in the community,” Cupery said. “I’m so excited because our community has a need for information and education for chronic lung disease.
“People may think they’re all by themselves in this and they aren’t. We’re here for them. We’re here to improve their quality of life.”
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at email@example.com.