Before she was diagnosed with
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary
Disease (COPD) three years ago,
69-year-old Dolores Labbate, a nonsmoker and an avid walker who
enjoyed daily three-mile treks, began
to experience shortness of breath,
chest tightness and labored breathing.
Mrs. Labbate attends exercise sessions
twice a week where she's developed
friendships with fellow program participants. She marvels at how well she and
the participants do week-to-week.
A progressive disease of the airways, COPD slowly takes its toll on the
body as the lungs gradually lose functioning. "I believe I must have had
COPD long before I was diagnosed,"
she said, noting she remembers feeling
the effects of the disease years ago.
Mrs. Labbate's symptoms may
have been masked when she was
diagnosed with breast cancer eight
years ago and irregular arrhythmia
shortly thereafter. "Everything was
difficult to do," she explained. "I
would clean for a bit and then I would
have to stop. And, I loved cooking, but
COPD really slowed me down."
That's until she visited with Peter
Spiegler, MD, Medical Director of
Pulmonary Rehabilitation and
Respiratory Care at Winthrop, who
confirmed COPD with a lung function
test. He placed her on a course of
medication and a two-day-per-week
exercise regimen at Winthrop's
Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center. He
also directed her to Winthrop's Eager
Breathers (WEB) support group.
"Mild and regular exercise regimens boost the upper body's strength
and benefit the overall health of the
respiratory system," explained Dr.
Spiegler. "She was determined to get
her level of endurance back, and
Winthrop's program helped her
achieve her goal. It's really boosted
her tolerance for physical activities."
Mrs. A simple test of lung functioning to confirm COPD, spirometry involves breathing
as fast and as hard as possible into a
tube after taking a deep breath.
At the Center, she exercises in the
company of other COPD patients, who
are a circle of friends she relies on.
The support from the group and her
therapists quickly got her on the path
to an improved sense of well-being.
"After the program's completion,
Mrs. Labbate has continued using the
skills she learned during rehab, and
as a result, she has been able to successfully maintain a quality of life
close to what she had prior to her
diagnosis," said Mara Bernstein, LRT,
Administrative Director, Outpatient
"The program has helped me
greatly. I walk more, and I can do a
lot more than I ever thought I could. I
am doing marvelously now," Mrs.
Labbate explained. "The staff is unbelievably well-trained and dedicated,
and the group is family; they are really exceptional. I would recommend
this program to anyone diagnosed
with COPD. It's the best thing they
can do for themselves."
(L-R) Alan Lurie, RRT, Winthrop; Dolores
Labbate, COPD patient; Peter Spiegler,
MD, Medical Director, Pulmonary
Rehabilitation Center and Respiratory
According to national health
reports, an estimated 24 million
adults have impaired lung function,
indicating that COPD, which is incurable, is underdiagnosed. Since COPD
is typically linked to smoking and only
some of the damage is reversible,
early detection and smoking cessation
For more information about
COPD, treatments and the WEB program, call (516) 663-2579.
According to the National Heart,
Lung and Blood Institute:
- COPD is the fourth leading cause
of death in the U.S.
- The most important risk factor for
COPD is cigarette smoking.
- COPD symptoms range from
chronic cough and sputum production to severe, disabling shortness