Breathe Together: The Power of Pulmonary Therapy

Velda Kilgore’s journey with pulmonary fibrosis is a testament to the power of self-advocacy and the importance of community support in managing chronic illnesses.

A lifelong walker, Velda’s life took an unexpected turn one spring when she found walking and talking increasingly difficult. Concerned by this new development, she sought advice from her primary care provider, who initially suspected springtime allergies. However, feeling confident it was more than just allergies, Velda insisted on a pulmonary consultation. This decision led her to Dr. Patrick Koo, whom Velda describes as a wonderful, caring, and fabulous doctor who takes time to discuss her case in detail.

Diagnosing lung deficiencies is complex and challenging due to many contributing factors. After nearly three months of tests and consultations, Dr. Koo diagnosed Velda with pulmonary fibrosis, a condition she found shocking given her commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle. The diagnosis was devastating for Velda, particularly the fact that it was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, meaning the cause was unknown. It took her weeks to process the diagnosis mentally.

In the face of this life-changing news, Dr. Koo recommended starting pulmonary rehab even before a formal diagnosis was made, a suggestion Velda is profoundly grateful for. Pulmonary rehabilitation proved beneficial, and Velda found more than just physical relief in the program; she discovered a community. Velda and her fellow therapy cohorts are navigating similar health challenges, and the support from fellow participants has become invaluable to Velda. The camaraderie and mutual encouragement gave her a sense of not being alone in her journey.

Since the fall of 2020, Velda has been a regular at the pulmonary rehabilitation gym, even after graduating from the program. The rehab helped her lose weight and taught her how to breathe differently, accommodating her reduced lung function. She has committed to maintaining her health, both mentally and physically, aware that a day might come when her lung capacity could significantly decrease.

Velda’s story highlights the critical role of pulmonary therapists and the broader support community in managing pulmonary fibrosis. Erlanger’s pulmonary rehabilitation program stands as a beacon of hope and support for those facing similar challenges, emphasizing the importance of advocating for oneself and the strength found in community support. The Erlanger team comprises a Pulmonologist, Dr. Patrick Koo, a Respiratory Therapist, specialized nurses, a dietitian, and Exercise Physiologists. Erlanger began Pulmonary rehab in the fall of 1996 in collaboration with its thriving Cardiac Rehabilitation program. Both certified programs were among the first in the southeast region.

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