Patient Testimonial

Ernie Simard

Patient makes great strides thanks to pulmonary rehabilitation program at New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland.

During 2005, Ernie Simard rarely slept in his bed. His poor health, particularly COPD (chronic lung disease), gout, diabetic neuropathy, and morbid obesity caused him such discomfort and difficulty breathing that he could only sleep sitting up in his recliner. In fact, it was pulmonary issues that finally brought him to the emergency room and sent him on a life changing rehabilitation journey.

 In November of that year, Ernie went the emergency room with increasing leg edema (swelling) and COPD exacerbation (a flare up of his lung disease). As Ernie was quite debilitated with his other medical conditions, he was referred to New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland (NERHP) for acute rehabilitation with the hope that he would improve to a level that would allow him to return home independently. Ernie arrived at NERHP walking only short distances, 50 feet with a walker, and required oxygen 24 hours a day. Shortness of breath and fatigue plagued him.

Focusing on pulmonary rehab, Ernie's therapy team developed a plan of care to address all his physical and medical conditions. Ernie's goals were to improve his shortness of breath, fatigue, leg pain and burning when walking, and educational needs. The therapy team worked steadily with Ernie and his family toward his ultimate goal of returning home independently. He began the Cardiopulmonary Education Series where he performed daily arm exercises, and received education and instruction on breathing, pacing, exercise, medicine and nutrition all specific to his lung and heart diseases.

Ernie steadily improved while at NERHP and was able to be weaned off daytime oxygen, walk without his walker up to 250 feet and be independent with all his bathing, dressing, cooking, and household tasks - without getting short of breath. On Dec. 7, 2005, Ernie returned to his home and began a six-week Outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at NERHP.

"I was able to do it because I had someone to help me and who treated me like a human being. I received immediate attention from the staff and my caregivers went out of their way to help me," responded Ernie.

The transition from being an inpatient to attending NERHP's outpatient programs also lessened any fears he had of not being able to succeed at home by continuing to improve. He especially enjoys the continued exercise, the support and the socialization that the outpatient pulmonary maintenance program allows him.

Today, Ernie walks two miles around his neighborhood every day, which includes a hill. Twice a week he walks on the treadmill for 20 minutes when he visits the pulmonary rehabilitation maintenance program. His change in nutritional habits has enabled him to shed 25 pounds which has contributed to his increased energy levels. He loves that he is able to get out, do errands, go to Wal-Mart and enjoy his family all on his own. And best of all, Ernie can sleep lying down, and he uses his recliner as a chair, not a bed.

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