Fit2Breathe!: Tools for Breathing Better

by Carol Rudd, registered respiratory therapist, Healing Choices Oasis

Experience Is the Best Teacher
Carol Rudd was diagnosed with asthma at the age of three, and most of her childhood was spent in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices. She notes, “I know what it feels like to be short of breath and fearful, to hear myself wheezing and be comforted by the sound, because at least I knew I was still breathing. Also, I know wanting to hide my breathing trouble, so no one would know I was struggling.  I have huge empathy for anyone with breathing problems.” Once she wondered, “Why me?” Today, she sees it as a gift. “My childhood with asthma made me slow down, calm down, and be more reflective and self-aware.  As an adult with asthma, I know it’s about management, eating right, and exercise.”

Enter: Fit2Breathe
FIT2Breathe! is an exercise and education program for adults newly diagnosed with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema (COPD), or any restrictive disease such as pulmonary fibrosis or sarcoidosis. It consists of your choice of either a three-week or a six-week program of exercise and education tailored to each individual’s needs. Classes—one-on-one or small group—address everything from lung anatomy in health and disease, breathing techniques, infection prevention, energy conservation, medications, nutrition, coping skills and relaxation, and smoking cessation.

In the last fifteen of forty-one years as a respiratory therapist, Rudd ran the Pulmonary Rehab program at Sacred Heart Hospital, where she provided education and exercise to the more severely ill in the outpatient setting. Besides running the program, educating and developing exercise routines, she relished the opportunities to coach, advocate, and empower her patients to live life to the fullest. She treated all age groups and most all breathing problems in every stage of dysfunction. Rudd is current on all the treatments available from a Western medicine perspective, and as a massage therapist trained in traditional Chinese medicine, she also offers an Eastern medicine perspective, which can include massage, qigong, and meditation.

What to Expect in the Program
After an initial one-on-one assessment, exercise and education sessions, either in small groups or done individually, address how and why breathing is different for people with breathing issues and how simple breathing techniques can make everyday life better. What foods can make breathing worse, why exercise is important, tips to simplify your daily tasks, preventing infection, and relaxation strategies that work are just a few of the topics discussed.

Rudd says, “I have always found that if someone knows why something is necessary, they tend to be more compliant with treatment strategies. Lung problems can be denied for a very long time, but if treatment, nutrition, and exercise are a daily routine, life can be extended. More importantly, when individuals feel they have control, the quality of their lives improves. I am all about positivity, a glass-half-full kind of gal, and my mission is to help people find hope and joy no matter their struggles.”

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