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Pulmonary Rehab Helps Richmond Man through Transplant, Beyond

| Date Posted: 10/15/2013

John Taylor

Rockingham resident John Taylor was prepared for lung transplant surgery by the Pulmonary Rehabilitation staff at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital.  Since his transplant, he has returned to the program to help aid his recovery.

ROCKINGHAM – The first time Rockingham resident John Taylor participated in the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital, he was attached to two tanks of 15-liter oxygen.

The oxygen tanks are gone now, and Taylor is enrolled in Pulmonary Rehab for a second time. This time, however, it’s to work on his strength, endurance and muscle tone after a March 3, 2013, single-lung transplant.

He is prepared to do whatever it takes to feel better.

“He’s very determined,” says respiratory therapist Brooke Wilkes of the Richmond Memorial program. “He’s a real follower as long as it’s good for him. It makes your job rewarding to see him come this far.”

”You can’t go home and sit in a chair,” Taylor says.

The FirstHealth Pulmonary Rehabilitation program was created to help people with chronic lung disease achieve their highest possible level of functioning and enjoy a more satisfying lifestyle. The program consists of a medically managed exercise regimen as well as patient and family education and emotional support.

Benefits can include fewer hospitalizations, a decrease in debilitating symptoms, increased physical activity and overall improvement in quality of life.

Although most participants are being treated to deal with the chronic effects of such diseases as COPD or asthma, Taylor entered Pulmonary Rehab to prepare for his transplant surgery. A program ordinarily consists of 36 sessions, but the Richmond Memorial staff arranged an extension to suit Taylor’s particular needs.

Pulmonary fibrosis, which was diagnosed in 2004, had so sapped Taylor's strength and endurance that he needed a lot of conditioning to prepare him for the rigors of transplant surgery, a subject first raised by FirstHealth pulmonologist David Thornton, M.D.

“Dr. Thornton told me I was a good candidate for a lung transplant and asked if I would be interested,” Taylor recalls. “I said yes, because I didn’t believe I would live much longer (without a transplant).”

Once referred to Peadar Noone, M.D., of the Transplant Team at UNC-Chapel Hill and placed on the transplant list, Taylor embarked on his conditioning regimen at Richmond Memorial. He even got the call about an available lung during one of his therapy sessions there, but had to wait three days for the transplant after the team determined that the original lung was not suitable.

“Everything went great,” Taylor says. “I’ve not had any problems, and my new lung keeps getting stronger. My journey sounds short on paper, but this is a long journey when you live it day in and day out. My journey is not over; it’s lifelong.”

The 67-year-old Taylor, who spent 20 years in the military before retiring from the textile industry, credits many people for his success so far. They include his wife and caregiver, Pat; other members of his family; his church family at Mt. Olive Baptist and Pastor Bryan Blackwell; Daniel Hall, M.D., the primary care provider who made the original diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis; Drs. Thornton and Noone; his transplant team; and other friends in his community.

Wilkes and RMH Pulmonary Rehab director Mitch Staub are on the list, too.

“It was hard work, but it helped,” Taylor says of Pulmonary Rehab. “I feel great.”

“He looks good, too,” says Wilkes.

For more information on the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital, call (910) 417-3351.

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