It’s a mystery why lung disease has such a relatively low profile in the public consciousness. It affects one in four men, women and children across Australia. It’s our nation’s second leading cause of death.* All of which makes the life-changing research conducted by Charlies’ Pulmonary Rehabilitation team vitally important.
What is lung disease?
The term ‘lung disease’ includes a range of debilitating and potentially terminal conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Symptoms include breathlessness, wheezing and coughing, and often the damage to the lungs is irreversible.
Senior Physiotherapist, Nola Cecins is a leading figure within the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.
“The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is a group-based exercise and education program for people with chronic, ongoing lung disease,” said Nola. “We work with patients to improve exercise capacity, reduce breathlessness, improve quality of life and help people stay at home and out of hospital.
It’s a strongly evidence-based program, the team undertake investigations and studies aimed at complimenting the existing knowledge and to improve the program and outcomes for patients.
There’s always supplementary investigations and studies going on that help expand our knowledge and improve the program and outcomes for patients.
Some of the research focuses on relatively simple interventions.
“One of our research studies looked at a simple regimen of walking, compared to coming in to the group exercise sessions,” explained Nola. “The research showed that walking is beneficial, but not as beneficial as group-based programs. This validated our work, but just as importantly it enables us to prescribe walking as an effective treatment for rural patients who don’t live near a rehabilitation centre.”
The team is also involved in bigger nationwide research projects, like a recent study into the use of oxygen during exercise.
“We were looking at supplementary oxygen for people who struggle to maintain their oxygen levels,” said Nola. “We wanted to see whether the use of oxygen during exercise benefited patients.
“Some patients have to use oxygen on a regular or even continuous basis. But there are patients who feel that, because they’re breathless during exercise, they need oxygen. We collaborated in a nationwide randomised control trial that investigated the benefits of oxygen during exercise training. It’s vital information that we can use to reassure patients and also improve our treatments and outcomes.”
This ongoing commitment to research transforms the lives and prognoses for patients with chronic lung disease – patients like Keith ‘Jiggo’ Jiggins.
Jiggo had always been healthy, but after he turned 60 he noticed he was getting short of breath. He was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a type of lung disease that results in scarring of the lungs. And sadly for Keith and his family, it’s terminal.
“I feel better. I feel stronger. I still go home buggered. I still get exhausted. But had I not been here, I wouldn’t be this good.”
“My heart’s going to be the thing that puts me down,” says Jiggo, with his trademark good humour. “It’s wanting oxygen all the time, and I can’t get it. It’ll be organ failure that gets me.”
But in typical Jiggo fashion, and with the help of the Pulmonary Rehabilitation team, he’s set on living and enjoying life to the full.
“I feel better. I feel stronger,” said Jiggo. “I still go home buggered. But had I not been here, I wouldn’t be this good. I can’t mow the lawn anymore, but the kids come around and help me.”
And that’s what it’s all about for Jiggo – spending more quality time with his family.
Want to support life-changing research, like the studies the Pulmonary Rehabilitation team conduct with patients at Charlies? Then click to make a donation and help patients like Jiggo.