ThedaCare Pulmonary Support Group Provides Socialization and Resources

Earlier this year, Carol Brown of Weyauwega was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and through rehabilitation she has learned how to live with the disease.  

Following rehabilitation, she found continued support through a pulmonary support group that meets at Riverside Medical Center (RMC). “We all may have COPD but we don’t have it in the same way,” said Brown, 70. “We can encourage each other.”

Pulmonary disease includes COPD, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, lung cancer and pulmonary hypertension or restrictive lung disease. The support group meets at 12:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month in the wellness education room at RMC. “We decided it was important for patients to have a continual method of being able to socialize with other patients with the same type of disease,” said Stephanie Yenter, a registered nurse and coordinator of cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation.

She and the nursing staff get to know patients through pulmonary rehabilitation, which is a 36-session program. During the time, patients also develop a close relationship with the staff and other patients. But “once they graduate they don’t have that opportunity,” said Yenter.

The support group is a continuation of the connection, providing valuable resources as well as socialization, to the patients. “Many people with pulmonary disease are afraid to go outdoors,” she said. “They tend to avoid all social activities. This gives them opportunity to visit with other people with the same illness in a very relaxed atmosphere, share ideas and get ideas from other people.”

Each meeting includes a topic like exercise, energy conservation, infection control, exacerbations or worsening of symptoms, and creating a health plate and healthy eating habits. While Yenter is the facilitator, she said the participants really run the program. “I’m doing a little bit of education but really everyone else is talking about what works for them,” she said noting that often someone has a burning question that others in the group also have. “It’s all about the needs of the patients.”

Yenter said the group has been successful. It was originally scheduled to meet every other month for an hour but participants wanted more time and to meet more often. “An hour just wasn’t long enough for everybody to talk and visit,” she said.

Participants do not have to have gone through pulmonary rehabilitation to participate in the support group, said Yenter, noting there are some with mild lung disease who have benefitted. People “are able to recognize that they are not the only ones that suffer from this disease,” she said. “With help of the support group, they might be more involved in the community.”

Registration is not required but appreciated. For information, call 715-258-1119.