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St. Helena Hospital Clear Lake’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program and UC Davis Medical Center Worked Together to Help a Local Cobb Resident Breathe Better

Smoking

Clearlake, Calif.— Jim Murphy was conscious of every breath he took, but not in a good way. “I got to the point where I would avoid activity, even walking my dogs or gathering firewood,” the Cobb resident describes. “I’d get out of breath and would go into a panic. I felt like I was going to pass out.” 

Murphy was diagnosed with severe emphysema seven years ago. Decades of smoking, working as a contractor, military service and work in industrial shipyards had left the once fit and active man struggling to breathe while doing basic activities like taking a shower or vacuuming. With each breath a struggle, he couldn’t take advantage of Lake County’s pristine air, rated by the American Lung Association as the cleanest in the nation. 

“I couldn’t take my two dogs walking or do the hiking I enjoy,” Murphy says. “I’m not the kind of person who can do nothing, so it was really hard. I felt like I had a reached a point that this is what it was, and I was trying to accept that.”

In 2015, Murphy was referred to St. Helena Hospital Clear Lake’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program by the VA Medical Center in San Francisco. The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is designed to improve the quality of life for people with chronic lung disease, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, interstitial lung disease or pulmonary fibrosis. 

“Our program starts with an initial assessment and pulmonary function test. Then we work with the patient to put together a program based on their needs and goals,” explains Program Coordinator Nancy Perrin, RCP. The program includes an exercise training program, education about proper breathing techniques and lung management skills to help patients improve their quality of life.

Murphy began working with Perrin and Sheryl Alderman, RRT. The two taught Murphy breathing and self-pacing techniques. Each visit included exercises to increase Murphy’s endurance and help him understand his limits. 

Perrin was impressed by Murphy’s inquisitiveness and effort and thought he might be a good candidate for Liberate, an endobronchial valve study being conducted at UC Davis Medical Center. “Upon looking at the criteria from his Pulmonary Function Test, he matched it perfectly,” says Perrin.

In patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which includes emphysema, damaged parts of the lung trap air. The trapped air causes enlargement of the lung which compresses the healthier area of the lung, keeping patients from taking deep breaths. In the Liberate study, the Pulmonx Endobronchial Valve is placed in a branch of the airway to close off the diseased part of the lung. The one-way valve allows air from the enlarged portion to leave the valve but not come back in. Representatives from Pulmonx commented that this may cause the diseased portion of the lung to shrink and the healthy parts of the lung to take in more oxygen.

Murphy had seven of the valves inserted into his left lung at UC Davis Medical Center in January. The procedure was done with a bronchoscope through the airway, so the recovery time was minimal compared to a lung volume reduction surgery, which is a lengthy procedure that requires months of recovery time. A week after the procedure Murphy returned home to Cobb and was back at Pulmonary Rehabilitation the following week. 

“I play with my dogs for a half hour and walk them for an hour a day now,” Murphy says. This is in addition to an hour of home exercises on the days Murphy doesn’t visit the Pulmonary Rehabilitation office in Clearlake to work with Perrin. “I can’t do what I did when I was 25, but I can do so much more than I could last year. Pulmonary Rehab has changed my life.” 

St. Helena Hospital Clear Lake’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is approved by Medicare and most private insurance companies.

To learn more about how Pulmonary Rehabilitation can help improve the quality of life for people with chronic lung disease, call Program Coordinator Nancy Perrin at (707)-995-5624. The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is located at the Hilltop Professional Building, 15322 Lakeshore Blvd, Suite 204, in Clearlake. 

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St. Helena Hospital is part of Adventist Health, a faith-based, nonprofit integrated health system serving more than 75 communities in California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Our workforce of 31,000 includes more than 22,350 employees; 4,800 medical staff physicians; and 3,850 volunteers. Founded on Seventh-day Adventist heritage and values, Adventist Health provides compassionate care in 20 hospitals, more than 275 clinics (hospital-based, rural health and physician clinics), 15 home care agencies, seven hospice agencies and four joint-venture retirement centers. Adventist Health ranked #10 in Becker's list of the largest nonprofit hospital systems in the U.S. for 2015.  Visit www.sthelenahospitalclearlake.org for more information.