Ray Richardson - Beaverton, MI
"I was on the heart transplant list at U of M, but after pulmonary rehab, I was so much better that my doctors said they would not even consider a heart transplant at this time."
Pulmonary Rehab Brought Him Back
“We have never seen this happen.” That’s what Ray Richardson of Beaverton heard from his heart transplant team at the University of Michigan.
Six months after pulmonary rehabilitation at MyMichigan Medical Center Midland, tests showed that Ray’s heart was able to pump much more efficiently and he was able to double his lung capacity, according to his pulmonary function test.
“I was so much better, they said they would not even consider a transplant at this time,” said the 56-year-old General Motors retiree.
Ray's heart, damaged years ago by a virus, continued to get weaker. Further complicating Ray’s status is the diagnosis of cardiomyopathy and an unknown autoimmune muscle disease which caused Ray to feel very weak and without any muscle strength. While he waited on the heart transplant list, his doctors suggested pulmonary rehabilitation at MyMichigan to relieve the shortness of breath that required him to use oxygen.
“When I entered pulmonary rehab, I was broken,” said Ray. “I couldn’t stand up. I had no muscle tone or strength. I couldn’t breathe. I have a wife and four boys, 34 through 21, and was sad that I couldn’t do much with them anymore.”
In pulmonary rehabilitation, Ray learned to breathe in a relaxed way to help put him in control of his breathing, to eat properly and to build his strength through exercise. He says the program’s individual therapy made all the difference.
“One-on-one programs are rare,” he said. “I was fortunate to find MyMichigan and to have Jackie as my therapist.” Respiratory Therapist Jackie Evans, R.R.T., is the program’s coordinator and one of its several qualified therapists.
“She took me under her wing and encouraged me,” Ray said. “When I wanted to quit, she convinced me to keep going.”
After 12 weeks in the program, Ray had changed his own and his family’s life. “I am much stronger physically than I have been in years and I can breathe!” he said. A year later, he continues to work out three days a week and no longer uses supplemental oxygen. Most of all, he’s thrilled to be doing everyday things like taking walks, fishing, playing catch or just helping his son get the car started.
“I’m not out of the woods: I still have a diseased heart, a pacemaker and a defibrillator,” he said, “but I don’t worry about it anymore, and I’m miles from needing a transplant.”
Ray’s experience strengthened his faith and changed the way everyone in the family views life. “I had a lot of people praying for me,” he said. “I give the credit to God and to Jackie and her team. I believe He used them to help me.
“I had doubts about myself, but I praise the Lord that I went ahead and did it. I don’t think I’d be here if I hadn’t gone to pulmonary rehab,” he said. “For a person struggling for every breath, it can really make a difference.”
While treatment results can vary by patient and condition severity, this program is designed to reduce the physical and emotional impact of chronic lung diseases and maximize each patient's breathing capacity.
Pulmonary rehabilitation can help you live your best life, even after a pulmonary diagnosis.
If you have been diagnosed with a lung condition and are perhaps on home oxygen, pulmonary rehabilitation may help you return to an active life. To learn more about pulmonary rehabilitation services available through MyMichigan Health, visit www.mymichigan.org/pulmonary. For referral to a physician who specializes in lung conditions, please call MyMichigan Health Line at (800) 999-3199.