TROY – Cynthia Little’s chronic lung disease had gotten so bad that the Mt. Gilead resident couldn’t make it from her house to the mailbox – a distance of a few hundred feet – without stopping to take a breath.
The 55-year-old disabled home care worker had been diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and was referred to the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital. But there was a hitch: She couldn’t afford it.
Fortunately, program scholarships funded by proceeds from the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation’s 2014 Spring Event fundraiser came along at just the right time. The event raised more than $55,000 to provide the scholarships for patients who need assistance.
“It has made a lot of difference,” Little says about the program. “It’s helped me feel better than I was.”
About two years ago, Medicaid suddenly stopped covering Pulmonary Rehabilitation, leaving some patients without coverage and some hospitals – Montgomery Memorial included – unreimbursed for patient services that had already been provided. Since the condition of a Pulmonary Rehab patient can deteriorate quickly without the continuous assistance of the program’s services, frequent emergency department visits or hospital readmissions became a concern.
Melissa Furr, RRT, the program coordinator for Montgomery Memorial’s Pulmonary Rehab program, helped present the story to members of the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation Board early this year. The Board members were so moved that they decided to support the program with proceeds from the Spring Event.
According to Furr, that decision was a godsend for program participants with pulmonary hypertension like Little as well as asthma, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis and other chronic lung diseases.
“This is a lifelong change,” Furr says of the lifestyle adjustments the program demands. “Patients can regress rapidly, but we can catch things before they start deteriorating.”
During 36 prescribed Pulmonary Rehab sessions (three times a week for 12 weeks), patients participate in a closely monitored period of exercise designed to help improve their quality of life. When Little started the program back in mid-August, she could exercise for only about 12 minutes before she got too winded to continue. By the first of November, and after 21 sessions, she was up to 40 minutes of exercise.
“Thank the Lord, I can tell a difference,” she says.
In addition to the exercise regimen, Pulmonary Rehab participants are educated in such areas as infection control, vaccines and proper hand-washing – all necessary to their continued progress and well-being. They also benefit from the relationships they develop with other people who are dealing with similar problems.
“They really interact with each other,” Furr says.
Obviously, Furr and others associated with Montgomery Memorial’s Pulmonary Rehab program are grateful for the support of the Foundation, which has already begun to plan for its next fundraiser. The 2015 Spring Event will continue the successful “Run for the Roses” theme of the past several years and be held the first weekend in May to coincide with the running of the Kentucky Derby.
For the past 13 years, Iron Horse auctioneers Tom McInnis and Bill Lilly have provided their services in support of these efforts and will also oversee the live auction portion of the event next year. Proceeds from the 2015 fundraiser will benefit The FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation’s Kids in Crisis Fund.
For more information on the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital or the scholarships for eligible participants, call (910) 571-5277. For more information on FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation, call (910) 571-5024.