Frank Kaspar, 80, of Tellico Village, has been dealing with a progressive lung disease for many years.
“It’s called pulmonary fibrosis,” he said. “I was first diagnosed about 10 years ago, but it wasn’t a problem until about two years ago. I had a case of pneumonia that went wild. So now there isn’t enough [healthy] lung tissue to exchange oxygen in my blood and carry it to my major organs.” After the pneumonia, Kaspar was too weak to do much of anything, he said.
“I started losing weight. I lost over 40 pounds, and it turned out that a lot of that loss was muscle. I was getting weaker. I don’t have enough lung disuse to support my muscles,” he said.
A friend told him about cardiopulmonary rehabilitation programs in Knoxville. Kaspar found out Fort Loudoun Medical Center had opened a pulmonary rehab program last September, to go along with its established cardiac rehabilitation program.
“There is a tremendous need for this in Loudon County,” said Dawn Glover, clinical nurse and supervisor of both programs. “We’ve always had cardiac rehab, but there was no place for our pulmonary patients to go except West Knoxville. Here, they can get exercise close to home. We design a program based on their functional capacity, and we re-evaluate that on a weekly basis.”
Patients begin with a program lasting 12 to 18 weeks, Glover said. Often, spouses come along to exercise as well. “The patients have to have a cardiac or pulmonary diagnosis, or be the spouse of somebody with a diagnosis,” she noted.
All patients wear heart and oxygen monitors throughout exercise. “I liked the monitoring,” said Kaspar. “It was good because one day, there was something going on with my heart. They said, ‘Don’t come back until you’ve seen your cardiologist.’
“It turned out there was something that had to be dealt with,” he said. Being monitored was “a relief, because you’re not sure what’s going on and whether what you’re doing is good for you or not. It’s a blessing.”
Over time, Kaspar built up strength to do an exercise program that includes stair stepping, hand-cycling, weight lifting, riding a stationary bike, and walking on the treadmill. Each exercise takes about six to seven minutes, and Kaspar is at the center about an hour.
Insurance typically pays for the patient’s initial monitored program, which Kaspar recently finished. After that, a voluntary maintenance program is available for $25 per month for two visits per week, and $45 per month for three visits per week. Spouses can join, too, for $25 a month, and Kaspar’s wife June participates in the maintenance program with him. She said with a laugh, “I’m here anyway – I enjoy it.”
Even though he does not wear the heart monitor, Kaspar still checks his oxygen levels with a finger pulse oximeter in between exercises, and records the reading in a journal the center gave him. The staff also takes his blood pressure, and Kaspar writes that in the journal as well.
He will take this information to his doctor the next time he has an appointment.
“It’s definitely helping. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t,” said Kaspar. “It’s a lot more convenient than going into Knoxville.
“I’ve gained a little muscle back, but fundamentally I’m holding my own,” he said. “The doctor is amazed what I can do. What muscle I have has been strengthened. I can do more than I was able to before.”
The Fort Loudoun Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Center is conveniently located in Lenoir City at 423 Medical Park Drive, Suite 500. For more information call (865) 271-6030 or click here.