TROY – Double lung transplant recipient Gene Monnin said participating in a pulmonary rehabilitation program saved his life – more than once – by strengthening him for surgery and the subsequent journey to recovery.
Monnin, a Russia resident, was retired when diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.
“Eventually, I got to the point where I could hardly breathe anymore,” he said.
A friend suggested Monnin see Dr. Jennifer Clune, a pulmonologist with Pulmonary and Critical Care Consultants Inc. She put him on oxygen and referred him to physicians at Ohio State University.
She also recommended participation in Upper Valley Medical Center’s pulmonary rehabilitation program for exercise to help Monnin get stronger as he underwent testing.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is an exercise and education program to support patients with respiratory diseases. The program provides progressive exercise to help improve the patients’ strength and stamina.
Exercise is monitored with frequent heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation checks throughout the exercise, monitored by staff including registered nurses, respiratory therapists and exercise specialists, said Nita Niekamp, who oversees the program.
The staff and camaraderie offered at rehab helped as Monnin prepared his body for surgery and continues to heal today.
“I thought they saved my life as far as getting me ready and now getting me back to where I need to be,” he said.
The months in between weren’t easy.
In fall 2019, Monnin and his wife, Marilyn, were called to Columbus for his transplant. He first underwent heart bypass surgery and then received the new lungs.
Monnin remained hospitalized at OSU’s Ross Center for weeks. The left lung continued bleeding before he returned to surgery in November 2019 to remove a portion of it. Monnin eventually was transferred to a rehabilitation center in Columbus then stayed at a home in Columbus short-term because of daily medical appointments until March 2020. During that five-month period, he underwent breathing treatments, X-rays and other treatment.
Marilyn Monnin accompanied her husband of 46 years to appointments for testing, exercise, surgery and recovery.
She also kept a diary, writing at least something every day about the journey – both the good and the bad days. At first Gene didn’t want to relive the journey through the writings. Over time, however, he became more curious about details he didn’t recall.
“Without that transplant, he would not have made it to Christmas (2019),” Marilyn Monnin said. “The recuperating took forever.”
She continues to journal as he participates in UVMC pulmonary rehabilitation two days a week as well as dialysis as a result of his kidneys shutting down following removal of part of one new lung.
“This is my angel,” Monnin said of his wife, adding, “And, we had a whole bunch more, too.”
Friends, family and neighbors in Russia and beyond sent hundreds of cards and offered to mow grass and handle other tasks during his surgeries and recovery.
The pulmonary rehab was a bright light during his journey, Gene Monnin said.
“I like it. I wouldn’t miss it,” he said.
The benefits of pulmonary rehab include:
• Improved quality of life
• Greater control and a decrease in the symptoms and complications of lung diseases
• Improvement in one’s ability to perform activities of daily living
• Improved management of anxiety and depression
• Options to help patient and family to cope with the lung condition
• Access to a registered dietician, diabetes clinical educator and chaplain services as needed to improve the physical and psychosocial health of the patient in the pulmonary rehab program.
The program also includes education sessions to assist patients in knowledge of their disease process, their medications and nutrition needs, Niekamp said.
Those interested in a referral to the program should speak with their respiratory disease specialist or family practice physician. More information also is available by calling the pulmonary rehab program at 937-440-4719.