Cumberland Times-News

Local News

October 9, 2011

Exercise program helping respiratory patients live life

CUMBERLAND — Stacey Blank knows that if she can just get people with a chronic lung disease into the workout room at the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center that patients will be amazed at what they can do, rather than focusing on what they can’t do.

“We have had remarkable success working with patients who have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, occupational lung disorders and also those who are about to have or who have had lung surgery,” said Blank, a registered respiratory therapist.

Awaiting those patients in the third floor room with a view of the Evitts Creek valley are ergonometers for the arms and legs, a treadmill, a stair climber and free-weight pulleys. A physician referral is required and hospital staff will check with a patient’s insurance company.

“Respiratory patients end up planning their day around the illness,” Blank said. “They might say ‘I can get this one thing done today,’ not realizing that their daily lives can be better.”

The closely supervised workouts strengthen the breathing muscles and keep matters from degenerating, according to Blank.

“It’s all about wellness and quality of life,” said Jamie Karstetter, director of clinical services. “We want the community to know this help is available.”

Blank said the physical activity does wonders for a patient’s attitude.

“Respiratory illness can lead to depression,” she said. “We also pair patients so there is a social experience as well. Sometimes they even choose to compete with one another.”

Karstetter said the rehabilitation room has reduced hospital readmissions for its users. “COPD is one of our higher readmission rates,” he said.

On Nov. 7, the Better Breathing Class will begin at the hospital at 5 p.m. Call Blank at 240-964-3807 to inquire.

Blank helps nine to 12 patients twice a week recover or maintain their pulmonary functions in the 12-week effort.

“People who think they are whipped will come in and see the treadmill and say ‘I can’t do that,’ and then they find out they can do it,” Blank said. “And they find that their lives improve.”

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at

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