A breath of fresh air

QUALITY OF LIFE: From left, Olive Lynch, health care assistant Bev Stabler, physiotherapist Joanne Rowles and Helen Chalmers
QUALITY OF LIFE: From left, Olive Lynch, health care assistant Bev Stabler, physiotherapist Joanne Rowles and Helen Chalmers
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AN eight-week programme is proving to be a life-changing experience for a group of patients.

People with respiratory conditions in Hartlepool and east Durham have started on a programme which helps ease their pulmonary conditions.

It is going so well that they have spoken up to lavish praise on it for improving their quality of life.

The eight week pulmonary rehabilitation programme is run by healthcare professionals from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust at venues in Hartlepool, Peterlee and Seaham.

It is helping patients who have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory conditions.

Physiotherapist Joanne Rowles said: “We are running the programme in convenient locations for the patients. They can choose which venue they want to come to.

“People with breathing difficulties are often shocked by the suggestion that exercise could improve their quality of life and help them to manage their condition. They often think they are unable to take part in exercise, but that’s not the case.

“The pulmonary rehabilitation programme gives patients the chance to take part in supervised exercise sessions and at the same time we provide education and support.

“For patients with chronic respiratory illness simple tasks can be very difficult because of breathlessness but exercise really helps them.”

The groups meet for one and a half hours twice a week for eight weeks to work through exercises.

This is followed by an educational session on healthy living and how to cope with their condition. It means patients can exercise in a safe environment with healthcare staff close at hand to provide advice and encouragement.

Joanne added: “We start each session off with a warm up, before the patients begin a series of 10 gentle circuit exercises, including gentle cardio on an exercise bike and light weights for strength.

“It’s about doing what the patients are capable of, so we can adapt the exercises to the specific needs of our patients.”

Helen Chalmers, 63, from central Hartlepool was diagnosed with COPD in 2009.

She has been coming to the programme at Fitness Connexions on Brenda Road in Hartlepool.

She feels it has made big improvements to her breathing. She said: “When I first started I’d become very breathless, but it gets easier. It’s made a real difference to me.”

Her views were supported by 80-year-old Olive Lynch from the Headland who has also been on the programme.

She said: “The team does a fantastic job. I would recommend it to anyone, it’s really very good. There is also a social benefit to spend time with other people with similar conditions.”

Lead community respiratory nurse Dorothy Wood said: “The programme brings great health benefits and improvement to the quality of life for these patients and so it is really important that patients take part in the programme.

“People can learn how to manage their condition much better. They are much less likely to be admitted to hospital if they learn to manage their condition and start to improve their health.”

Anyone who has been diagnosed with a respiratory condition should speak to their GP, practice nurse or any other health professional to be referred onto the programme.