After pulmonary rehabilitation I felt so much better

Norman has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). He shares how pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) has improved his quality of life. 

Oxygen helped me carry on with my life

Norman, who lives with IPF, and his dogs Sadie and Suzie

I have IPF. It started when I became very breathless and within two days I could hardly breathe. I had a terrific cough. I coughed and I coughed, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I went to the doctor and they sent me to our local hospital. They then sent me onto the main hospital.

I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. It came on unbelievably fast, which the doctors were very much surprised at.

I was given oxygen, small portable bottles and a large container for the house. Whenever I was out of breath, I would use about five minutes of the oxygen and was then able to carry on with my life.  

I couldn’t speak on the phone in those days. I still get out of breath after exertion especially walking up a hill, but as soon as I slow down it goes away completely. 

After 3 weeks of pulmonary rehabilitation I felt a lot better

I went to a physiotherapy course through the NHS. It’s called circuit training at our local walk-in centre, but this was a special one for people with fibrosis. It was a circuit of different exercises and that helped tremendously. It included cycling, weights, press ups against a wall, walking, stepping up and down and a type of disco dancing.  Great fun.

I did one course twice a week where you do exercises tailored especially for your breathing and the rest of your body - that is very important. After three or four weeks I felt a lot better. 

You might think when you get out of breath, you should sit quietly and rest. But it’s not harmful to make yourself breathless. In fact, getting out of breath when you’re being active is good for you because you can make your muscles stronger, including your breathing muscles, and your muscles use oxygen from the air more efficiently.

I said to the instructor: “what happens if I collapse and I’m out of breath?” and he asked me what I thought my portable oxygen was for! 

You do as best you can! And when you have 20 pairs of eyes looking at you in class it encourages you to do more and more. 

I started doing things I wanted to do

Since PR, Norman has been able to do the things he enjoys - like building and repairing gypsy wagons!

I firmly believe exercise is so important to help people living with long-term lung conditions. I haven’t used my oxygen for six weeks now, but keep it handy in case I need it.

I’m so glad I was recommended to start a pulmonary rehabilitation scheme. It was a great help. Within a few sessions I was able to breathe much easier, and I encourage anyone with a lung condition to ask their doctor to be referred. 

I have three children and two dachshunds, Sadie and Suzie – pulmonary rehabilitation has meant I can spend more time with them and worry less about my health. I was a decorator/joiner and I did that for 45 years, self-employed. When I retired, I started doing things I wanted to do. I love woodturning and woodworking equipment and I started specialising in that. I finished building and repairing gypsy wagons and I’ve got one in the front drive now which I’ve got up for sale which is magnificent.

The Taskforce for Lung Health is recommending that access to pulmonary rehabilitation be improved: every person with an MRC breathlessness score of grade 2 and above is identified, referred to and has the opportunity to complete a programme.

PR involves a physical exercise programme, tailored for each person. It includes information on looking after your body and lungs, advice on managing symptoms, including feeling short of breath, nutrition and psychological support. People who smoke are also given advice on how to stop.

Do you have a story to tell about pulmonary rehabilitation? We'd love to hear what you've got to say. 

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10 March 2020