Bagpipes, My Pipes and Pulmonary Rehab

Bob Maxson learned to play the bagpipes while in college and enjoyed it immensely. Yet once he went off to grad school, he didn’t pick up the bagpipes again – though they remained on his bucket list.

Bob retired in 1999 and moved to Lopez Island after 20 years of ministry with the Presbyterian Church followed by 20 years as a counselor with juvenile court. He soon learned that someone on Lopez taught bagpipes, so he eagerly signed up for lessons but had to drop out because his pipes couldn’t produce the airflow needed to keep the bagpipes going.

“I experienced early fatigue and shortness of breath with most physical activities, and tests resulted in my diagnosis of COPD along with chronic asthma,” Bob recounted. Walking had been his primary exercise, but he knew he really needed to do more. “As far as my asthma, I was either ignorant of the symptoms or just chose to ignore them out of denial. My doctor recommended that I take advantage of the pulmonary care offered by Island Health. I had the doldrums and didn’t want to do anything, but I eventually did as my doctor advised.”

Respiratory therapist Jim Schermele RT and exercise physiologist Courtney Stewart BS, CEP sat down with Bob and explained the program he was about to engage in. At the conclusion of their presentation, they asked if he had any questions. Bob caught them off base (so to speak) when he asked, “Will I be able to play the bagpipes?” Courtney responded, “We’ll do our best.”

Within the first two weeks of rehab, Bob wanted to do things again, including projects and tasks that he had previously tossed aside as being “unnecessary” when, in fact, they had been simply too much for him to cope with. “I was inspired to regain the ability to do those enjoyable things that I had previously dismissed as out of my reach,” Bob exclaimed.

On his graduation day from Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Bob surprised the Cardiopulmonary staff by playing his bagpipes for them. He played “Amazing Grace” and “Saogan”, a Welsh lullaby.

Bob appreciates feeling alive again and credits the Pulmonary Rehab program and team with his newly realized ability to play the bagpipes again.

If you’ve have a lung-related condition, ask your physician if a rehabilitation program is right for you. Click here for more information about the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at Island Health or call 360.299.4242.

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