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Local pulmonary services center is changing lives


ON THE TREADMILL:  Gary "Wes" Slone comes to the center twice a week, working to strengthen his lungs after a lobectomy.
Independent Photo || HEATHER ONEY


SALYERSVILLE – After just a few months of seeing patients, a local clinic is already changing lives.

Hope Family Pulmonary Services opened their doors in September at the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center, located off of Restaurant Row in the building that was previously a donut shop.

Focusing on helping people with breathing problems returning to a healthier, more active life, the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center’s main goals are to help patients reach their maximum potential to participate in all activities of daily living, minimize episodes of feeling breathless and reduce the need for hospital care. 

Whitney Bolen, the director of respiratory therapy at the center, explained to the Independent that people struggling with shortness of air or lung disease can talk to the primary care physician about referring them there, and then they will come in for an evaluation. If deemed that they could benefit from the treatment, they will start them on a tailored program to their needs.

Bolen said watching the patients improve through the program is very rewarding.

“Just seeing them improve, seeing their condition at the beginning, and now they’re not even halfway through and we’re seeing them be able to get around without being short of breath,” Bolen said. “Even their attitude is completely flipped.”

Patient Gary “Wes” Slone, 38 years old from Johnson County, is experiencing firsthand the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation, explaining in the couple months since he’s been coming to the center, his quality of life has increased.

Last March, Slone underwent a lobectomy, removing part of one of his lungs, and his doctor referred him to the local center.

“Before, I couldn’t walk to the mailbox without being out of breath, and now I can no problem,” Slone said. “This pulmonary rehab program has helped me a lot. It gave me my life back.”

Slone, who has maintained his maintenance job throughout this, but said the program has helped him tremendously to be able to keep doing his job.

Dr. Paul Craig, the clinic director at the center, explained that the program focuses on improving and maximizing lung function for patients with various lung diseases, including COPD, congenital problems, chronic bronchitis, asthma and lung transplant recipients. 

“We want to get the lungs in as good a shape as we can get them, improving their exercise tolerance and improving their daily living,” Craig said. “For our patient to say he can get to his mailbox now, it seems like a small thing, but it improves his lung health and it can increase his overall health. This is about lung disease and pulmonary function, but we also focus on prevention.”

Craig said he periodically evaluates the patients to measure their progress, noting that Slone has progressed exceptionally well.

“He’s improved markedly, breathing better, getting along better, and with his condition, it’s going to help prevent lung infections, not only helping the lungs, but also helping heart health.”

Craig said they also teach their patients how to lead a healthier lifestyle, with a low-fat diet and, if they smoke, urging them to quit. 

“There’s a significant need in this area for a pulmonary rehab center,” Craig explained. “I’ve worked in a lot of different places and the folks in eastern Kentucky have some of the most difficult diseases and problems to deal with. Diabetes, heart disease, black lung patients, emphysema – really big killers and being able to intervene on our own terms beats the heck out of sending them in the back of an ambulance. We want to help them take care of it on their terms. Any intervention will have a positive effect, so don’t wait until you have a heart attack.”

Craig also explained that it is a team effort, working along with their primary care physicians.

“We’re not here to take over the care of the patients,” Craig said. “We’re here as a service for their patients.”

To put the need for a pulmonary clinic in this area into perspective, Kentucky is ranked first in the nation for deaths from COPD, the third leading cause of death in the state. The lung disease death rate for the nation is at 41.7 (rate per 100,000), 63.4 for the state and 175.7 for Magoffin County. 

Hope Family Pulmonary Services is a division of Big Sandy Health Care and is funded in part by the Dorney-Koppel Foundation. The center, located in Salyersville, is named after Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, who was diagnosed with COPD in 2001 and, after benefitting from pulmonary rehabilitation, has since worked as a national spokesperson and patient advocate, now serving as the president of the COPD Foundation. She and her husband, Ted Koppel, the well-known television news anchorman, have used their family foundation toward the establishment of pulmonary rehabilitation programs in communities with a high need for the service. The Dorney-Koppel Foundation has provided financial support and guidance in starting the rehab program at Hope Family Pulmonary Services.



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