Breathing Again

January 29, 2019
Graciela Urdiales breaths again

Pulmonary rehab patient Graciela Urdiales doesn’t take a single breath for granted

After a lengthy career as a postal worker, Graciela Urdiales looked forward to retirement and spending time with her family, especially her 11 grandchildren. But more than 30 years of breathing difficulties were making it difficult to keep up with her loved ones.

“I was not physically active,” Urdiales said. “I used to use oxygen while dressing myself, and I’d have to sit down and recover.” Thanks to pulmonary rehabilitation at Doctors Hospital of Laredo, she can now be a part of her family’s life again.

Years ago, Urdiales was diagnosed with dermatomyositis, which initially develops as a skin rash and for some patients, can progress into problems with the lungs. Eventually, Urdiales developed pulmonary fibrosis as part of her dermatomyositis’ progression. Other members of her treatment team suggested physical therapy at first, but during the course of her treatment, Pulmonologist Rafael Deliz Velez, MD, invited her to be one of the first patients in the new pulmonary rehab program.

At first, Urdiales was skeptical about the program. “I was scared to go to therapy because I didn’t know what they were going to do to me!” However, she learned the rehab team would work with the limits of her breathing and fitness. Thanks to the encouragement of her respiratory therapist, Mariti Garcia, BSRC, RRT, Urdiales discovered she could succeed at pulmonary rehab. “Mariti would always say, ‘Don’t say you can’t do it. You think you can’t but you can,’” Urdiales said.

Garcia customized a therapy program for Urdiales. “It took over half of the program for her just to accept getting on the treadmill,” Garcia said, “but by the end of the program we were able to get her comfortable there and she could do 30 minutes at a time.”

Starting with stretch bands and short walks around the track, Urdiales built cardiovascular fitness — and confidence in herself. Eventually, she worked up to greater and greater distances on the treadmill. “Would you believe I could do a quarter mile?” she told her husband. “Then I’d tell him, ‘Would you believe I did a half mile today?’”

Before she started her three-sessions-per-week pulmonary rehab routine, Urdiales lamented that her ability to be part of her family’s life was limited. “Before I started the exercise routine, my husband took over the kitchen. But I wanted my family to eat my cooking,” she said with a laugh. Now, she’s able to cook for and engage with her grandchildren and visit with her family every Sunday. She credits God, and her family, for giving her the moral support that she needs to continue her fitness routine at home and stay accountable for her goals.

“They push me!” she says. “They ask me if I’ve been walking or exercising. If I say ‘I cooked today!’ they say, ‘That’s not exercise!’”

Urdiales also credits her team at Doctors Hospital of Laredo for their tireless work and professionalism. She found their encouragement during challenging workouts inspiring, and their devotion to her care stayed with her.

The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program

If you have been diagnosed with a chronic lung disease or condition, Doctors Hospital of Laredo offers an individualized Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program designed to help you live a better quality of life and decrease the symptoms of your disease. We help people with lung diseases and conditions, including:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Emphysema
  • Lung cancer and lung cancer surgery
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Pulmonary fibrosis