For Pulmonary Rehab Week, an Exercise Physiologist Shares Her Perspective

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by Mark Koziol |

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This week, March 8-14, is National Pulmonary Rehab Week. As a pulmonary fibrosis and single-lung transplant patient, I vow to promote pulmonary rehab awareness on behalf of my fellow Pulmonary Fibrosis News Forum members and others who are suffering from a debilitating lung disease.

I am currently participating in the Phase 3 pulmonary rehab program at University Hospitals St. John Medical Center in Westlake, Ohio. The cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs at UH St. John are accredited by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and run by an excellent team of medical professionals who help patients to maximize their progress.

The position of exercise physiologist is an essential — and somewhat overlooked — component of the medical team. The team at University Hospitals has two exercise physiologists who guide patients through their pulmonary rehab program.

While being evaluated for a lung transplant, I participated in a Phase 2 pulmonary rehab program at a different facility. Unfortunately, I did not find this experience to be a good one, though it helped me to appreciate my current pulmonary rehab center.

After my single-lung transplant, I had several dozen centers in northeastern Ohio to choose from. I vetted the surrounding centers and decided on UH St. John after observing the pulmonary rehab team in action and noticing how much they appeared to enjoy their work.

I previously wrote a column about Lynn Gorton, the respiratory therapist member of the pulmonary rehab team.

Jessica Sedlacek is one of two exercise physiologists on staff. She has provided me wonderful support since we met during my previous pulmonary rehab program. She performs her duties with zest, enthusiasm, and uses positive reinforcement to maximize her patients’ performance. As a former college athlete, I appreciate Jessica’s knowledge and insight into the discipline of exercise.

I asked Jessica where her passion for helping others comes from. Jessica told me that her grandmother’s premature death from a heart attack influenced her decision to choose the sports medicine program at Ohio’s University of Mount Union and to follow the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation pathway.

Jessica added, “Being a witness to others getting their lives back is the greatest gift that drives my passion each day.” From my interactions with Jessica, I know that she speaks these words from her heart and that they translate passionately into her work.

A primary reason for a patient’s participation in pulmonary rehab programs is to improve their quality of life. During our discussion, Jessica said that one of the main focuses of her position is to “increase strength, stamina, and endurance to improve the patient’s ability to perform their activities of daily living.”

My improvement was significant during the Phase 2 pulmonary rehab program. I continue to improve incrementally, but I made more substantial gains while I was under the care of the pulmonary rehab team.

I am an anomaly at the pulmonary rehab center due to my age. Most of the patients are elderly and exhibit anxiety. I asked Jessica how she approaches patients who are apprehensive on the first day. Jessica replied, “I try to make the patient feel comfortable in our setting. I introduce them to fellow patients, informing them of expectations, but doing so with genuine kindness and a smile.”

I asked Jessica if there was a one-size-fits-all prescription for pulmonary rehab. She said, “The program is individualized based on the needs of each patient. However, a complete program should include cardio and endurance training to work on stamina. The program will also include resistance training, strength training, and stretching/balance training to help with flexibility and reducing the risk of falling.”

I asked her what a lung transplant patient should expect in the Phase 2 pulmonary rehab program. “Post-lung transplant patients need aerobic exercise,” she said. “They also need increased resistance training because of decreased quadriceps strength and overall muscular atrophy due to inactivity because of their progressive lung disease.”

I celebrate Jessica and the pulmonary rehab team at UH St. John. They have been a constant in my life since transplant, and I will be forever grateful for their expertise and help. Jessica and her team have been instrumental in my recovery from transplant surgery. I hope that every person who goes through pulmonary rehab has someone like Jessica to motivate them in their rehabilitation process.


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Sandra Eckstein avatar

Sandra Eckstein

What are the differences between Phase 1,2 or 3? I never heard that term before.

Mark Koziol avatar

Mark Koziol

Hello Sandra, thank you for commenting and reading my column. Here is a link I think you will find answers your question. Take care, Mark.


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