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Winthrop’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program: A Breath of Fresh Air for Pulmonary Patients

Although 69-year-old James Riegel of Baldwin, NY, has advanced emphysema, he hasn’t been hospitalized with any lung-related complications for over twelve years. A retired detective, Mr. Riegel attributes his success in managing his condition to Winthrop’s internationally renowned Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, which provides education, exercise, group support and a home maintenance regimen to patients with breathing disorders.

“The Program has drastically improved my life,” said Mr. Riegel.

Patients with asthma, emphysema, some lung cancers or any condition that affects the functioning of their lungs may also benefit from Winthrop’s carefully supervised, eight-week Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. Through intensive, supervised exercise, education, behavior modification and emotional support, the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program offers patients the opportunity to improve their lives by learning ways to cope with their lung conditions. The Program also helps patients gradually improve their endurance and return to a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Established by pulmonologist Michael Niederman, MD, Chairman of Winthrop’s Department of Medicine, more than 25 years ago, and now under the leadership of Peter Spiegler, MD, Director of the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center and Medical Director of the Respiratory Therapy Department, the Program is staffed by a team of registered nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, psychol - ogists, pharmacists and social workers who are committed to meeting the unique needs of each patient.

“Often, a pulmonary rehabilitation program is the single best thing, other than stopping smoking, for patients with chronic lung disease,” said Dr. Spiegler. “Our multidisciplinary team works together to create a unique plan to help each patient improve his or her quality of life – and that is what makes the biggest difference.”

Dr. Spiegler,

Today I walked, perhaps one eighth of a mile. It is remarkable only because 12 weeks ago, prior to my first visit with you, I could barely walk six steps. It is not that I couldn’t walk – what I couldn’t sustain was breathing.

I have been doing exercises to strengthen my lungs, upper body, arms and legs…I have not been able to do this alone. That is why your team has been invaluable to me…Never have I dealt with people on such a high level of proficiency in their field. They are true professionals!

With many thanks for your part in this program,
Renée Le Noble
Freeport, NY
In 1999, Mr. Riegel was not able to walk more than a few steps before feeling like he couldn’t breathe. After being diagnosed with severe emphysema, he was referred to Winthrop’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.

“Throughout the Program, I was not only provided with valuable education, but I was also introduced to exercise, which was lifechanging for me,” said Mr. Riegel.

Thanks to the support he has received, Mr. Riegel has been able to get back to enjoying his life – driving, meeting friends for lunch and exercising at home on his treadmill.

“As far as I’m concerned, no successful treatment of any lung disease can take place without a rehabilitation program like Winthrop’s; it’s the foundation for the whole treatment process,” said Mr. Riegel.

Graduates of the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program have access to a rehabilitation gym at Winthrop so that they may maintain the benefits of the better breathing they’ve gained through the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program – an added benefit that has helped Mr. Riegel stay in terrific shape over the years.

Graduates also receive ongoing assistance through Winthrop Eager Breathers (WEB), a free support group founded by Mara Bernstein, LRT, Administrative Director of Pulmonary Outpatient Services at Winthrop, who is devoted to the development and enhancement of advocacy programs for patients with COPD and had a pivotal role in the development and operation of the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at Winthrop.

At monthly meetings led by a healthcare specialist, members discuss a wide range of educational topics, including how to communicate with their physician, holistic approaches to treatment and relaxation and stress management techniques.

“Graduates who attend our monthly Winthrop Eager Breather meetings say the biggest benefit that they receive is the feeling of inclusiveness and not being alone,” said Ms. Bernstein. “It really helps to go somewhere where they can share experiences with others who understand what they are going through.”

Experts in Winthrop’s Institute for Lung Care diagnose and manage the full range of pulmonary conditions, including sleep disorders and lung cancer. For more information about pulmonary care at Winthrop, call 1-866-WINTHROP.

Vol. 22, No. 3
Winter 2012

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