Gail Shamberg-Pero has dealt with chronic lung disease for years. While her physicians help make her "unsick," as she calls it, pulmonary rehabilitation plays an important role in her overall wellness.
The program has improved her lung function and connected her with a posse of pals who “get it.”
“It’s truly another home for me,” Shamberg-Pero said. “We are all dealing with the same things and cheer each other on."
Shamberg-Pero has chronic pulmonary blood clots. She also has bronchiectasis, a condition that causes her airways to expand and collect mucous, leading to shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, fatigue and frequent bacterial infections.
Others in pulmonary rehab have COPD, asthma, cystic fibrosis, sarcoidosis, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension or lung transplants. While their conditions are distinct, they all have the same goal: to live life more fully with lung disease.
“Pulmonary rehab helps people breathe better, and that is definitely our primary purpose,” said respiratory therapist and program supervisor Aimee Kizziar. “But we often hear more praise for the community of support we create for patients.”
That community, according to Kizziar, reduces the isolation, fear and depression that often accompany chronic lung conditions.
Effective treatment can also be fun
Each pulmonary rehab treatment plan is unique and typically includes exercise therapy, nutritional guidance, psychosocial support and education on topics like medication management. Special activities such as yoga, mindfulness and a singing group called the Rockin’ Rehabbers are both fun and therapeutic.
For Shamberg-Pero, who says "the mountains are my church,” the program helps her continue to enjoy her love of hiking. A retired UC Davis nurse and health educator, she also facilitates the support group and mindfulness sessions.
“I could say pulmonary rehab saved my life, and that would be true,” Shamberg-Pero said. “In addition to improving my lung function and my quality of life, it also saved my spirit.”
Pulmonary rehab at UC Davis Health is accredited by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and led by Kimberly Hardin, professor of pulmonary, sleep and critical care medicine. Last year, the program moved to state-of-the art facilities in midtown Sacramento at 2825 J Street. The clinic also houses pulmonary medicine specialists, giving patients opportunities to schedule appointments with their physicians and participate in pulmonary rehab at the same time.
Kizziar encourages UC Davis Health physicians and nurses who work with patients who have lung disease to stop by for a tour. Contact her to schedule a day and time at 916-321-5611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related stories and information
Surviving summer with chronic lung disease
UC Davis Medical Center recognized for leadership in pulmonary rehabilitation
Pulmonary rehabilitation at UC Davis Health
At UC Davis, singing is powerful medicine (video)