FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation to raise money for pulmonary rehab program

TROY – Breath is life, and many people are struggling for each one by the time they reach the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital.

Debby Barden is 2014 chair of the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation. (Facebook photo)

Debby Barden is 2014 chair of the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation. (Facebook photo)

When members of the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation Board heard stories about patients who know the natural act of breathing only as a continuous effort, they were so moved that they decided to direct the proceeds from their May 3 Spring Event to the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program of FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital.

The money will fund scholarships for Pulmonary Rehab patients who need financial assistance to participate in the program or for the continuing maintenance activities that help them maintain their improved quality of life.

“We had a full house for the Board meeting, and right off the bat there was a motion to fund the program,” says Foundation Chair Debby Barden. “We approved it right away. This has a great value to our citizens in improving health care outcomes.”

Pulmonary Rehabilitation serves people with chronic lung diseases such as COPD, lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma who need a level of exercise training and education beyond that ordinarily covered by a physician during an office visit. The program includes medical management, education, exercise, breathing retraining and relaxation techniques in an atmosphere of shared patient emotional support with specially trained professional oversight.

During the recent meeting, Barden and her fellow Board members heard about a Montgomery County teenager whose debilitating lung condition had robbed him of a life as an average teen.

“This program had given him hope,” Barden says. “It was very heart-rending. It moved everybody, and we thought this was a great need.”

As the Pulmonary Rehab coordinator at Montgomery Memorial Hospital, respiratory therapist Melissa Furr, RRT, deals with stories like this every day. Many of her patients are uninsured. Others are on Medicare, which covers only 80 percent of the cost.

“With lack of insurance and co-pays and deductibles, we have many patients each year who need some help,” she says.

An average of 25 patients will participate in Montgomery Memorial’s Pulmonary Rehab program at any one time. They work with respiratory care professionals on upper-body support and breathing techniques while also learning about infection control and medication and other related subjects.

“It’s a multidisciplinary program,” Furr says. “We learn a lot of things over our 36 Pulmonary Rehab sessions.”

Patients range in age from the young to the very elderly, and almost all will complete the program with some level of improved quality of life.

Because the condition of patients with chronic lung disease can rapidly deteriorate after they leave the program, some of the scholarship money will go toward fees for the continuing maintenance program.

“We provide the maintenance program option for a small fee, but some patients can’t afford that,” says Furr.

Since the goal of Pulmonary Rehab is improved quality of life, every patient is asked at the beginning what he or she wants to gain from the experience.

One woman wanted to be able to sing to an expected grandchild. By the time the baby was born, she was crooning lullabies.

Another participant wanted to be able to walk up stairs again.

“That’s what he wanted to do,” Furr says. “By the time he was finished, he could.”

–from FirstHealth Public Relations

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