Better Breathers Support Group Now in Shawano

Free Meetings Provide Information, Support to People with Breathing Problems

When Terri Curtis was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease two years ago, the Tigerton woman felt alone and unsure about the future. But after meeting Mary Lapp, a respiratory therapist with ThedaCare At Home in Shawano, the now 68-year-old was filled with hope and on a mission to help other people living with lung diseases.

“When you get diagnosed, you just feel so alone and that you’re the only one living with this,” said Curtis, who is on the steering committee for a new support group in Shawano for people with breathing problems. “But while you don’t ever really get comfortable with having the disease, you do feel better once you know about what you’re facing and that there are other people living with it, too.”

Lapp said the new group, which is called Air It Up Better Breathers, will not only provide information to people with COPD, asthma or other respiratory diseases, but also be an outlet for them to talk about their shared challenges. While the group was her idea, Lapp has put together an active steering committee made up of several patients with lung disease who are eager to raise awareness and provide support to those who need it. “People can also learn from each other’s experiences and what may or may not have worked for them,” she said.

The first meeting will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. on Wed., May 29, in the Pine Room at Shawano Medical Center. There is no cost to attend. Lapp said members will drive meeting discussion. “At the first gathering, we’ll ask people what topics they’re interested in and we’ll go out and find speakers to address the different topics,” she said.

Employees from Erickson Home Medical Equipment and the Menominee Tribal Clinic are also working with Lapp on the group.

Beyond education, Curtis said she hopes Air It Up Better Breathers can also spread hope for those living with chronic breathing problems. “Sometimes, you just want to vent and want to know you’re not alone. You can really learn a lot from other people – what worked for them, what didn’t,” she said. “There’s a lot of information out there and it sometimes gets fragmented so the group will provide a way to bring it all together.”

Curtis said she hopes the group also raises awareness about lung disease and people will learn about it and recognize their symptoms so they can be diagnosed earlier. “It’s a silent disease. You don’t think you have a problem until it’s suddenly so bad that you can’t ignore it anymore,” she said

Shawano Medical Center is a nonprofit hospital in Shawano. It serves 35,000 people in Shawano, Menominee, and surrounding counties. Shawano Medical Center includes a critical-access (25-bed) hospital, Wellness Works, Sports Medicine, and Shawano Community Hospice.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, ThedaCare At Work, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is the largest employer in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.