A Breath of Fresh Air: Making the Way Back Home

The story of Helen Wilson

As Helen Wilson put it, "I was on my way out of this world" when her daughter Wendy moved her from southern California to Spokane for treatment. Diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in her 70s, Helen says she managed to live fairly well before the acute onset of worsening symptoms came on at 94 years old.

"When you can't breathe, it makes it hard for you to go about your everyday plans," Helen says, who went from sometimes coughing and having lung irritation to feeling like her every breath was a tiresome chore.

Wendy, Helen's daughter who lives in Spokane, and Helen decided to move Helen to an assisted living home at Spokane's Rockwood at Hawthorne. Wendy then enrolled her in St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute for the Outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, continuing her journey towards recovery with certified therapists and a continuum of care to assist Helen live life to her fullest with COPD.

"We actually work on machines, building up and increasing our lung power and muscle arrangements," Helen says. "St. Luke's is everything from the body to the mind. I'm still in that process--the process of getting better. I don't think I'll ever be back to normal strength or ability, but I'm certainly able to almost take care of myself."

The program consists of both education and exercises, all with the goal of putting confidence back in Helen and her family.

"It really put me on the road to recovery, helping make me healthy and strong," Helen says. "Perhaps I should say, stay strong again ."

Helen gives credit to the help of St. Luke's therapists like Rainie Springfield, respiratory therapist. 

Helen Wilson "Helen was an inspiration to me," Rainie says. "Someone her age with such an open and positive attitude--it just shows that you can improve your health and start a new regime at any point of your life. She kept a portfolio of our education and shared it with others at the facility where she lived, because she was ecstatic that the information she was learning was improving her health. She had a wonderful support system with her daughter as well."

This connection between Helen and therapists like Rainie exemplifies St. Luke's patient-centric care program, where it's not about healing just the injury but helping the person as a whole. "Attending St. Luke's built me up to where I could actually return to southern California again," Helen says.

"We're all broken in some small way, but not the same way," Helen says about how she is today. "These places are created to answer our needs. I can't say enough about how much St. Luke's helped me still be here today."

To find out more about St. Luke's outpatient programs offered at 10 convenient locations, visit: st-lukes.org/programs-services/outpatient-programs-services/ .  


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St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute
711 S. Cowley St.
Spokane, WA 99202-1330

Inpatient Information: (509) 473-6058 or 1-833-FOR-SLR-1
Outpatient Information: (509) 473-6869