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Mahomet man finds second wind with Carle Pulmonary Rehab

Mahomet man finds second wind with Carle Pulmonary Rehab
On average, a single person breathes in the equivalent of 13 pints of air every minute and takes 17,000 breaths per day. For those with an Alpha-1 Antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency, breathing easy is a much more challenging task.

67-year-old John Ayers knew that an AAT deficiency was no joke, losing a brother to this diagnosis in years prior. A former smoker and retired Champaign School District maintenance worker, his own diagnosis of the same deficiency was alarming and caused shortness of breath and fatigue while walking, carrying objects and more. 

“When I first found out about my diagnosis, I thought it was a death sentence,” Ayers said. “After watching my brother pass from the same thing, I knew that this was a condition I needed to take seriously.”

AAT is a protein produced in the liver that protects the body's tissues from damage by infection-fighting agents released by its immune system. AAT deficiency causes sensitive lung tissue to deconstruct due to the body's reduced production of the AAT protein.

AAT deficiency is an inherited disease and the severity of disease depends in part on the abnormalities present in the genes inherited from each parent. There are an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 individuals affected by AAT deficiency in the United States. AAT deficiency is a rare disorder and is the only known inherited factor that increases your risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“I started feeling sick around Thanksgiving and continued to feel this way for about six weeks,” Ayers said. “Dr. Webb, my primary care provider, recommended a breathing test to test my pulmonary function—which I had never done before. This is where we noticed how poor my breathing was.”

It was then that David Webb, MD, Family Medicine, referred John to Vishesh Paul, MD, Pulmonary Medicine. Here Dr. Paul encouraged John to give pulmonary rehabilitation a try.

The 12-week program provides skill training and education on breathing techniques to help reduce shortness of breath, energy-saving techniques, stress management, improving diet, symptom management and understanding medications.
It also gives patients an opportunity to learn and grow with others experience a similar disease or symptoms.

“Living with chronic lung disease is no easy task. However, with the right management program, patients can maintain a normal, active life,” Dr. Paul said. “Our Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program helps patients control their disease and its symptoms. We work with them to develop a specific treatment plan that meets their individual needs.”

The comprehensive 12 week program includes a mobile app to help patients track their exercise, vitals and more, ensuring patients are staying on track even while at home.

By the time John’s 12 weeks were coming to a close, he noticed that physical activities that were a challenge before were becoming easier. Tasks like walking long distances, carry heavy objects and climbing stairs were now much easier than before. 

A second breathing test confirmed his improvement.

“The staff really helped me learn how to breathe and exercise correctly,” Ayers said. “The program truly is excellent. In fact, I often would double up my workouts and get some exercise in before my rehab appointments.”

The health outcomes were significant, but even more significant was the ability to retain and lead the lifestyle John wanted to live. He was able to enjoy the things he loved with his renewed physical health.

“I’m just not a ‘sit in the chair and watch television’ kind of person. I mow the lawn, help my children at their homes and carry heavy objects, which has become far less difficult,” Ayers said. “I continue strength training and I’m still increasing my lung capacity. My physical activity is truly better now.”

Visit for more information on how Carle Pulmonary Medicine and Pulmonary Rehabilitation is helping patients get back to enjoying the things they love most.

Categories: Staying Healthy

Tags: “pulmonary, Champaign-Urbana, pulmonary medicine, pulmonology, rehab, rehab”

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