Passionate About Pulmonary Health
Jose de Jesus Vizcarra loves to walk. He does it five times a week for 30 minutes. The activity helps him destress and helps his overall well-being. But nearly a year ago, the Chico resident was fighting for his life.
The 66-year-old was hospitalized for nearly a month. He was on a ventilator suffering with pneumonia and COVID-19.
“(My doctor), Dr. Verma, told me later he thought I was going to die,” he said. But the husband and father got better and survived. Eventually he left the hospital and his doctor referred him to Enloe’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program to continue improving his lung health. The program has helped Vizcarra tremendously. He is now able to work out and breathe easier.
Making an Impact
Dorothy Mraz-Smith, Registered Respiratory Therapist, began developing the program in 1978. It came to full fruition by 1980. Mraz-Smith remains at Enloe. “I love what I do, so I stuck with it.”
“Pulmonary Rehab has proven to decrease hospital days for patients with chronic lung disease nationally,” said Dorothy Mraz-Smith, a Registered Respiratory Therapist.
The program aims to help people understand their respiratory condition and improve their quality of life. It’s intended for people with COPD, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, bronchiectasis, pulmonary fibrosis and those who have had lung surgery.
And it’s making a difference. “Pulmonary Rehab has proven to decrease hospital days for patients with chronic lung disease nationally,” Mraz-Smith said. “We have been documenting our own study from 2000-2017, and we have documented a 64% overall reduction in hospital days from one-year pre-rehab to one-year post-rehab.”
Individualized programs enable participants to increase their exercise tolerance and become stronger. Folks learn how to breathe to control their shortness of breath, how to use medications properly to help with their conditions and how nutritional factors can affect them.
Exercise sessions are tailored to each person’s ability, needs, and limitations, emphasizing endurance, strength and flexibility, while monitoring oxygen levels and heart rates. Respiratory therapists and exercise physiologists supervise each session, under the advice of the program’s physician director.
When participants attend, they’ll notice a welcoming atmosphere. Diana Pardo, Exercise Physiologist, even streams music tailored to the participants’ tastes. It’s no wonder the team forges strong bonds with patients. Registered Respiratory Therapist Scott Fedrizzi even has a catch phrase, “Breathe easy with Fedrizzi.”
“It's exciting to see people get their strength and stamina back in a safe way. Our participants are able to get stronger, increase their activity level and experience improved quality of life after Pulmonary Rehab,” Mraz-Smith said.
The team consists of a pulmonary physician director, registered respiratory therapists, exercise physiologists and a clinical dietitian. Much like Mraz-Smith, Jan Wicklas, Registered Respiratory Therapist, has been with the program since its inception.
“It’s a wonderful aspect of health care, working with patients for weeks and helping them learn to take care of their lung conditions,” she said.
Mraz-Smith notes that environmental irritants, such as smoke, asbestos, particulates and dust, can create lung issues.
“We tell patients to stay active and pace themselves — slow and steady wins the race,” she said. “It’s exciting to see people get their strength and stamina back in a safe way. Our participants are able to get stronger, increase their activity level and experience improved quality of life after Pulmonary Rehab.”
Participate in the Program
If you or someone you know is interested in Pulmonary Rehabilitation, call (530) 332-6898 to learn more or visit www.enloe.org/lung. The Enloe Pulmonary Rehabilitation program has been approved for reimbursement by Medicare and various private and group insurance companies.