Purgatory: (in Roman Catholic doctrine) a place or state of suffering (pulmonary rehab) inhabited by the souls of sinners (transplant patients) who are expiating their sins (trying to build up a seemingly impossible amount of strength despite their extremely compromised state of health) before going to heaven (getting new lungs.)
Since my life has literally been dominated by pulmonary rehab lately I thought it appropriate to dedicate a blog entry to it.
To say that pulmonary rehab, which I am required to do five days per week unless I have conflicting appointments, is difficult is quite an understatement. Each day starts out hard then gets harder and harder. It challenges you to your physical limit (if you let it), and then - since you have no more to give physically - becomes some sort of tortuous mental exercise. Today, for instance, the smallest thing made me cry... and it had nothing to do with the thing at all, it was just my body's reaction to this extreme mental and physical state I am forcing it to be in.
At least this is how it has been for me. On a good day, I feel very tired and a good kind of worn out after my three hours of working out. On a bad day, like today when I was easily getting short of breath from the time I got up, it seems like a victory just getting there. And every lap, every pedal, every weight repetition is a chore. At the end I am utterly exhausted.
And then I come back the next day and do it all over again. And the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and then hopefully I have some appointments on Friday so I can skip out (like I do tomorrow - yay!)
The whole thing is totally insane. You should see these people! There is no "can't" in this crowd. It really would be difficult even for a healthy person to endure, let alone someone running on a fraction of the energy that they used to have.
A Typical DayHaving said all that, let me tell you about a typical day at rehab.
- Arrive, get checked in, switch from my oxygen to their tanks that come in push carts that are easier to push around the track.
- Walking: Tuesday and Thursday are long walks (mine today was 30 minutes, but I don't think it will go higher than that); Monday, Wednesday and Friday are 20 minute walks. We always count our laps and I'm always surprised how much my speed varies from day to day, constantly up and down. For instance, yesterday I did almost 20 laps in 20 minutes (flying!!) and today I did 21 laps in 30 minutes (turtle pace.)
- Biking: Always 20 minutes, but resistance is increased every day.
- Weights: Rotate days working "arms" and "legs" - although there are so many leg exercises that some spill over onto arm day. This includes things like leg curls, leg press, bicep curls, tricep press, squats, stairs and various shoulder stretching poses.
- Floor class: Taught by a different teacher every day, the floor class uses ankle weights, hand weights and therapy bands to work the major muscle groups. There is also some stretching and breathing at the end. (And a lot of coughing by me and all of the other cystics.)
- Education class: Classes on topics related to transplant such as occupational/physical therapy, feeding tubes, osteoporosis. These are all topics that Todd and I will learn much more about in the hospital but it is a good introduction.
And If That Isn't Fun Enough...I am lucky to get out by 5pm (class starts at 1:30) which puts me perfectly in time for rush hour traffic that essentially doubles my commute home. Now that is a really fun thing to do after already tiring day. Sigh.
When I do get home, it's always a toss-up for me between nap and therapy. I am exhausted but 6pm is an awkward time for a nap. So I usually end up just moping around the house being exhausted for a couple of hours until I catch my second wind just in time to ensure that I can never get to bed before midnight. Thank god I do not have to think about dinner these days. (Thank you friends and take-out!!)
There are more annoying things about pulmonary rehab...it totally messes up my eating and therapy schedules during the day (both of which are very important things right now), I get sweaty at rehab but am forced to either take a sink bath or shower head rinse off since my port is accessed, and sometimes the satellite radio spends an awful lot of time on the 50s station catering to the center's large majority of older patients.
But hey, no one likes a complainer (I'm kidding, since this whole blog post is sort of one long complaint). I do have a brand new car to enjoy my trips back and forth to Durham - and I enjoy the time alone to think. And while rehab hasn't improved my lung functions any, it does keep me coughing up stuff all day long so my lungs stay pretty clear and it has definitely made me stronger - starting to see some definition in my arms! Sometimes someone will even put on 80s or 90s music which makes me very happy.
Now. If I could just start feeling like I was mentally ready for transplant, I'm pretty sure my body is all set.
Photo Credit: Purgatory, emptykingdomcom; Group exercisers, gettyimages.com; Stretching cat, acctomarley.blogspot.com.