It’s something everybody does and takes for granted – breathing. But the moment it is compromised, its impact on everyday life is undeniable.
Recognizing a vital need for a program geared at improving the quality of life for individuals with breathing disorders, NYU Winthrop Hospital was at the forefront of meeting the charge with the development of a comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation program. Now, 30 years later, staff members are most proud of the 10,000+ lives it has helped improve through intensive, supervised exercise, education, behavior modification and emotional support. In fact, the impact of the program on patients’ quality of life was once the focus of a multi-center study conducted in Italy and presented at the American Thoracic Society’s Annual Meeting.
NYU Winthrop Hospital staff Richard Rivera, Vice President, Administration; Sarun Thomas, DO; Steve Salzman, MD, Chief of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine; Mara Bernstein, LRT; Doreen Costello, RN; Georgine Baum Montell, PT; and Alan Lurie RRT, at the recent 30 year celebration of a program that has impacted so many lives.
“There’s nothing more satisfying then knowing that the work you do each day is helping people to complete everyday tasks and simply live their lives,” said Mara Bernstein, LRT, Administrative Director of the Pulmonary/Sleep Division at NYU Winthrop Hospital, who was instrumental in the creation of the program three decades ago.
Among those patients is Margie Clark, a vibrant 85-year-old, who marvels at just how drastically different her life is today compared to when she first joined the program in its infancy.
“I was a miserable 55-year-old asthmatic whose breathing and activities were becoming more and more limited,” recalls Ms. Clark. “But that was 30 years ago. Not only did the Pulmonary Rehab Program save my life, it enhanced it by giving me the tools I needed to take better care of myself.”
Mara Bernstein, LRT, Administrative Director of the Pulmonary/Sleep Division at NYU Winthrop Hospital, and Mary Bartlett, NP, Medical Director of the Pulmonary Rehab Program.
NYU Winthrop’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, under the medical direction of Mary Bartlett, NP, is staffed by a team of registered nurses, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists. The program is geared toward helping patients suffering from asthma, emphysema, lung cancer, or any condition that impacts the functioning of the lungs to gradually improve their endurance and return to a healthier, more active lifestyle. The supervised program involves a multidisciplinary team approach to creating a unique plan that is tailored towards each patient’s needs.
Graduates of the program have access to the rehabilitation gym at NYU Winthrop as well as to a free support group, the Eager Breathers. It is through this group that caring has truly extended beyond the walls of NYU Winthrop, as former patients have gathered for various social events and special friendships and bonds have been formed.
“This network of people, from all walks of life, come together to share the joys and sorrows of life experiences with pulmonary difficulties, and encourage one another in a rewarding and humbling experience,” said Ms. Clark. “When I look back at all of the experiences I would have missed, experiences that I was able to handle – including seven beautiful grandchildren – I know I’m the luckiest person alive.”
Recently, Ms. Clark, along with several others who successfully graduated from the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, were delighted to gather with members of NYU Winthrop’s Administration and staff at the Carltun to celebrate the 30th anniversary of a program that has had a lasting impact on so many.
In fact, one attendee and graduate of the program, Mary Rockensies, feels so strongly connected to the Hospital that she and her family, who established a foundation in her name to raise funds for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) research, are committed to helping the Hospital find a cure. The Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation has donated a total of $100,000 to the Hospital’s Interstitial Lung Disease Program in support of these research efforts.
The Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation recently made their second donation to NYU Winthrop in support of research efforts for IPF.
For more information about NYU Winthrop’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, call 1-866-WINTHROP.