Joe Clayton, left, assists Don Casey with setting up an exercise machine in the rehab gym.
Joe Clayton, left, assists Don Casey with setting up an exercise machine in the rehab gym.

   Don Casey would find himself winded during the simplest of activities.

   “I would just go up 12 steps in the basement and I would have to stop halfway up,” he recalled. “I’d get to the top and I’d be gasping for air. I couldn’t believe it could get that bad.”

   His beloved hunting? Just as difficult.

   “I had to stop four times going up this hill to get to my blind,” he said.

   Linda Hansen, a travel photography enthusiast, found herself equally frustrated with her health.

   “I felt I was at a tipping point in my life. I love to travel and I love to go onto photo tours, and I found myself being the person who lags behind, the person who’s gasping for air. At my age, I had to decide: what do I want to do for the rest of my life?” she said. “Do I want to continue traveling? ... Nobody probably would criticize me if I went and sat down and read a book and waited to die.”

   She chose life.

  “I made an appointment with a pulmonologist here in Ripon,” Hansen said. “He ruled out all kinds of things it could be. Then I said, ‘Would therapy help me?’ So he wrote out an order for me to come to therapy.”

   This past spring, Hansen and Casey both enrolled in a new program rolled out just this year at Ripon Medical Center (RMC): pulmonary rehabilitation.

   It’s designed to help patients with breathing problems, such as Casey and Hansen are experiencing, improve their quality of life by strengthening their body to the point that they can function more normally, with less dependence on oxygen and medications.

Read the full story in the Oct. 5, 2017 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.