At 47 years old, Connie was on a constant rollercoaster of hospital admissions and specialist consults. Connie had been sedated and intubated on multiple admissions as she was unable to sufficiently breathe on her own. It was four years ago now that Connie was diagnosed with a rare lung disease called nonspecific interstitial pneumonitis (NSIP). NSIP is a disease of the tissue and space around the air sacs of the lungs. Connie’s particular form of lung disease is linked to the rheumatoid arthritis in her knees and back. It is something known as an autoimmune condition. Autoimmunity is when the body mistakes its own properties as foreign and fights these, causing destruction of the tissues and joints.
Three years ago Connie began attending the Saskatoon Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Saskatoon Field House at the recommendation of her respirologist. On her first few visits Connie was tentative. She was uncertain as to how she would fit into this community; she also worried about her physical ability. Connie started slowly, working her way from struggling through 2 or 3 laps, to built up the stamina to get around the track 6 times. Due to a hospital admission 1 year ago, she regressed in her progress. Now Connie’s current goal is to get herself from 4 laps around the track to 5! If there is anything that I have learnt from Connie, it’s how to be patient with yourself and the goals that you have set. Nothing happens overnight, but it will happen over time if you give yourself the benefit of the doubt!
Connie has now been without a hospital admission for one year, which is the longest span since her diagnosis four years ago. When I asked Connie what she would tell those people who have had the pulmonary rehab program recommended to them, she lit up and said, “Oh! Definitely come! It really makes a world of difference!” Connie attends both the twenty minute resistance training session as well as the walking track, and will only miss if there is something that she just cannot get out of, or if the weather doesn’t allow. She continued to say, “For those who can breathe, a lap is easy and they don’t get it. But for those who cannot it is like WOO HOO! You did it!”
Connie’s final message to anyone who is sitting on the fence about attending the program was, “It’s hard doing it on your own, friends may or may not understand but the people here know what it’s like to be out of breath. Everyone is different sizes, shapes and ages and we are all here rooting for each other”. Pulmonary rehab is for anyone with lung disease whether it’s COPD, asthma or rare diseases like NSIP.
Lise Schultz – University of SK Nursing Student at the Lung Association of SK