Jackson General Hospital on Thursday hosted an open house for the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center.

The center has been open for about 15 months, said Angel Anderson, registered respiratory therapist. A grand opening was hosted back in November and was attended by Grace Anne Dorney-Koppel, who is the wife of Ted Koppel.

“She was a patient with COPD. She was diagnosed in 2001 and they told her that she didn’t have very long to live, and it was very devastating to her. So she found a rehab program in New York and was on the waiting list and got into the program finally. Where it had helped her so much, she wanted to make it available for more people” Anderson said.

The Dorney Foundation, along with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Jackson General Auxiliary provided the funding to make the center a reality. The hospital received the grant funding in the summer of last year, she said.

Respiratory therapy has been a key department in our hospital since it started. When we had the opportunity for the grant, and knowing that our population in the county suffers from COPD and respiratory illnesses, it was was really exciting to renew the program. Previously we had great results with it. This has been a revival for it. I run into patients I know personally who are graduates and they are stilling living a great quality of life, and that’s what it’s all about. Stephanie McCoy, CEO, Jackson General Hospital

Since its opening, the program has seen about 60 patients, 35 of which have completed pulmonary rehabilitation. There currently are 14 patients in the program, Anderson said.

Thursday’s open house was well-attended and turned out to be the perfect way to showcase the new center, said Denise Toler, JGH marketing and public relations specialist.

“We had previous patients who have graduated the program attend, and we had some new patients who came in who were interested. It was exactly what we wanted to do,” she said.

Stephanie McCoy, JGH CEO, said pulmonary therapy is a vital component to the overall mission of the hospital. The hospital has had previous success with pulmonary rehabilitation and the Dorney Center marks a revitalization of the effort in the community, she said.

“Respiratory therapy has been a key department in our hospital since it started. When we had the opportunity for the grant, and knowing that our population in the county suffers from COPD and respiratory illnesses, it was was really exciting to renew the program. Previously we had great results with it. This has been a revival for it. I run into patients I know personally who are graduates and they are stilling living a great quality of life, and that’s what it’s all about,” McCoy said.

“Our mission statement is savings lives and changing lives with quality healthcare one family at a time. Through this program, particularly, we’ve been able to do that,” she added.

In addition to boosting the quality of lives of the patients, the center offers an unparallelled level of convenience.

“This is a needed service because it’s saving people trips to Charleston or Parkersburg, and people are very happy to stay in the community. We can see the benefits in their quality of life. Studies are starting to show now that pulmonary rehabilitation is the most cost effective method to treat COPD,” he said. “Grace Anne Dorney-Koppel realizes the value of it and has helped us get started. She realizes the importance of people being in their communities and making this available in rural communities. She networks with us every month; we attend online meetings which she attends.”

 Pulmonary rehabilitation helps those with breathing problems to return to a healthier and more active life. It may benefit people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sarcoidosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer and pre- and post-lung transplant.

The program has three steps: First a complete medical history and physical evaluation is conducted with tests that include a full diagnostic and pulmonary function test to measure breathing capacity.

The next step is education for patients and family members regarding pulmonary conditions, controlling symptoms, using medications and oxygen appropriately.

The third step is monitored and supervised exercise therapy to improve muscle conditioning, heart fitness and breathing.

“Each time they come in we try to increase their time and resistance on the machines as they build up to make them stronger,” Anderson said.

The 12-week program is offered under the guidance of our trained, license respiratory therapists and the medical director. The outpatient program includes individual treatment plans, exercise sessions, teaching sessions and breathing and relaxation techniques.

For Anderson, providing pulmonary rehabilitation is a rewarding career.

“I’ve been a respiratory therapist for 14 years, and just to provide it to our community and seeing the benefits from the program, personally, because I work with them one-on-one is amazing,” she said.