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Patient Stories

Building stamina through pulmonary rehabilitation

Relying on oxygen 24/7 in order to stay alive is hard to imagine, but for Richard Limone, it is a reality. In April, 2009, Mr. Limone was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia (BOOP), which limits the capacity of his lungs to hold oxygen, resulting in very low oxygen levels in his blood. Suddenly simple tasks such as walking outside to get the mail or even going to the grocery store were a constant struggle. Mr. Limone feared that he would never be able to venture out of his house again without difficulty.

Mr. Limone has had an active lifestyle until his diagnosis, spending his time chasing after two children alongside his wife, gardening and playing golf in his spare time. When he was diagnosed with BOOP, Mr. Limone was confused and very depressed that his stamina and activity was going to be diminished. His doctor suggested he attend the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at North Shore Medical Center to build up his lung capacity and learn ways to cope with his limited capabilities.

The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is designed to help patients with lung diseases increase lung capacity in order to reduce their shortness of breath, which allows them to improve the quality of their lives. The program includes education, exercise training, and other support services to help patients emotionally deal with their disease.

Before he started the program, Mr. Limone needed to address his excess weight, which was causing additional stress of his body’s systems and his breathing. He decided to undergo a weight loss surgery, and had a gastric bypass. Because of his diminished lung capacity, he had a long recovery from the surgery requiring a 30-day stay in the hospital and then a three month stay at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital North Shore.

Though necessary, the surgery and long recovery weakened his already compromised lungs, leaving him without the energy and stamina to walk even 100 feet without stopping to catch his breath. When he started with the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program he could only walk up stairs one at a time, needing to rest in between steps. Gradually he was able to walk three steps and then he progressed to five steps at a time before resting. Before starting rehab, he could not walk for more than five minutes on the treadmill. With the help of the therapists, Mr. Limone is currently walking on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes at a speed of 2.4 mph.

There were moments for Mr. Limone when he felt like he had no energy to keep going with the rehab. He overcame these moments of weakness with the help of the rehabilitation therapists and the knowledge that the rehab was truly helping him return to his normal lifestyle.

Today, Mr. Limone says that he “100 percent absolutely recommends” the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program to anyone with lung issues. “If it hadn’t been for rehab I wouldn’t be here talking to you. My success with my lungs is all because of rehab; the therapists are the ones who have made my lung capacity increase,” said Mr. Limone. He is continuing with the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Maintenance Program to retain his lung capacity and he’s happy that he can now participate in activities that he used to enjoy before his diagnosis.