Paco Achieves Many Milestones on Health Journey
If you have a conversation with Paco Martinez, you’ll quickly discover that “journey” is one of his favorite words.
“I spent more than 25 years in the travel industry,” he explains. “It only seems natural to talk about change as a journey.”
With eyes that twinkle when he smiles, you might think Paco is a natural optimist, with his glass half full; but he’ll tell you that his sunny disposition hasn’t always been so apparent. His past hides a dark shadow.
“I’ve struggled with depression and have even tried to take my own life,” he says, softly. “It’s difficult to talk about, but that’s what makes my journey even more amazing.”
Many years ago, as depression took its hold on Paco, the stress of his career began adding pounds to his small frame, as well. With these factors, plus a 25-year history of smoking, it was only a matter of time before he began having pulmonary issues with difficulty breathing, low energy and sleep apnea.
“I went to see my pulmonologist, Dr. Sean Barry, who told me I needed to be on a CPAP machine,” says Paco. “That was not easy for me to use, so they moved me to oxygen. I did not want to use it — it was a major inconvenience for me.”
Dr. Barry told Paco that he could consider moving off of the oxygen if he began exercising to improve his functional status and lose weight.
As a result, Paco started the pulmonary rehabilitation program at Bryan LifePointe, but only lasted a few sessions before giving up. He said he wasn’t ready for that journey.
However, in 2010, he returned to give it one more go-round.
Through the pulmonary rehabilitation program at Bryan LifePointe, patients like Paco go through a series of education and exercise classes where they learn about their lungs, how to exercise and how to live better with their lung condition. The goal is to have these patients graduate into a long-term exercise and strength-training program that can be maintained for the rest of their lives.
Dr. John Trapp, medical director for the pulmonary rehabilitation program, emphasizes the multidisciplinary approach of the program.
“Patients work with multiple specialties to better manage their respiratory disease. These may include pulmonologists, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, pharmacists, exercise specialists and others,” he says. “Research has proven that education and exercise therapy lead to a better quality of life and decreased hospitalizations.”
Janis Howlett, pulmonary rehab specialist at Bryan LifePointe, says many people enrolled in the pulmonary rehabilitation program are smokers, but her team also works with individuals who are non-smokers or former smokers who have COPD, asthma, interstitial lung disease or pulmonary hyper-tension. Following an initial intake process, Janis confirms the pulmonary rehabilitation patient understands what he or she wants to achieve as a result of the program.
“You have to know what your goals are,” she says. “For many people, they simply want to be able to experience less shortness of breath. They want to be stronger, able to do more without getting fatigued.”
Paco knew what he wanted to accomplish — to increase his strength and endurance, walk/run a mile without being short of breath, and get his blood sugar under control.
Janis says the Bryan LifePointe team can help patients build strength and endurance during the program, but disease management is a lifelong commitment.
“When I first came to the program, I was very depressed,” says Paco. “Janis helped me push through, and after a couple of months I started to see results. Yes, I was about to be taken off my oxygen, but I also was feeling better about myself and started to be much happier.”
Battling Type II Diabetes as well, the Bryan LifePointe staff helped Paco manage his blood sugar, providing access to juice or other high glycemic foods if he started to feel faint during his workout.
The pulmonary rehabilitation program typically runs 18 weeks, and at the end of the program, participants are encouraged to continue with their exercise plan. Paco chose to continue at Bryan LifePointe, expanding his horizons into fitness classes, cardio and weight machines, even jogging around the track.
“Before I came to Bryan LifePointe, I had never even used a treadmill!” he exclaims. “When I finished rehab, I had lost 10 pounds. I was so happy. I told Janis that I needed to buy her a bouquet of roses for helping me get better — I had to keep going.”
This is the point of the journey where Paco meets the individual he deems responsible for the majority of his recent transformation — Jon Cook.
Jon is a health coach and trainer at Bryan LifePointe and regularly works with clients like Paco who have transitioned out of a medically supervised rehabilitation program into a structured fitness program.
“I’ve been privileged to witness Paco’s entire transformation from rehab patient and fitness client, to a strong and centered individual in charge of his own health,” says Jon. “He’s a completely different person!”
Paco sings Jon’s praises to everyone. “Jon pushed me to be better,” says Paco. “He makes programs for me, and I just do what he says. I’m 54 years old, and I just started exercising four years ago!”
He’s even a regular participant in Jon’s boot camp classes.
“When I finish working out, I’m exhausted, but I’m getting stronger. My spirit
feels good,” Paco says.
He continues adding to his goal list. The newest step in his journey? Learning how to swim.
“I go to the pool now once a week or when I’m having a bad day,” says Paco. “I love to kick with the kickboard around the pool. But you know, I will learn how to swim without it one day!”
Other goals on his list include riding a bike and learning to tango. Based on his track record of success, he’s sure to accomplish both. And soon.