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Patients in the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center exercise on cardiovascular machines to relearn how to breathe while battling Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

BENNINGTON >> For patients with Chronic Lung Disease, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) is adding an afternoon session to the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.

After launching last January with seven participants, the exercise program has increased to 27 patients and completed five sessions at eight weeks each. For the first year, the program capped at eight participants, but by adding another class time, 16 patients are able to participate. The new set of sessions begins on Feb. 9.

The rehab program is covered by the patient's insurance while a maintenance program that follows cost up to $35 per month. Patience workout twice a week for one and a half hours.

Jane Montgomery of Shaftsbury was a part of the inaugural class and continues to work out in the maintenance program.

"I was sick in the hospital with pneumonia and my doctor suggested I try it," Montgomery said. "When I got diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), I've since tried to talk to people about getting out and getting exercise and this is what brought me here, because I was sitting home doing nothing just making myself worse. When they said they had a program starting I said 'yes, I want to join.'"

Montgomery was nervous about her heart because of her weight at 235 pounds and is now down to 134 pounds due to a heart healthy diet given to her by her doctor.


Doctorate Physical Therapist Caitlyn Boyd facilitates the rehab program and said a demand for more classes is what lead to the addition.

"COPD is not common before the age of 40," Boyd said. "We breathe every day and we don't think about it but you do have conscious control over your breathing as well. Once you have COPD and can't catch your breath, all you think about is breathing."

Boyd monitors the patient's breathing while they exercise on the treadmill, stationary bike and arm bike. She also encourages them to exercise and practice breathing at home.

"Usually people's first sign of it is shortness of breath and the only way you can diagnose is through breathing tests," she said.

COPD happens when the diaphragm can't contract due to irritation in the lungs which means those suffering from shortness of breath ultimately have to relearn how to breathe. Boyd said that this could happen from smoking cigarettes or from air pollution. Most of her patients are of the older population. Bronchitis and Emphysema are among the two restrictive diseases under COPD, according to Boyd.

"Not everyone who smokes gets it," she said. "They used to include asthma in that, but they don't anymore. It's more of a restrictive disease."

Patients who consistently occupy between 88 and 92 percent of oxygen in their blood may be prescribed a low dose of oxygen as a medication because they have a shortness of breath while moving or walking, Boyd said. A healthy percentage is 92 and above.

Those interested in participating in the upcoming session can contact Boyd at (802) 447-5140 or Michael Algus, MD, or SVMC Pulmonology at (802) 442-4855.