Patient Stories: 
Kim Skorupski
Kim and Jaelyn at Acadia Mountain

This past summer Kim Skorupski visited Acadia National Park in Maine with her daughter and her granddaughter, Jaelyn.

A few years before Kim never would have been able to gather enough energy to hike the steep 700 foot climb up Acadia Mountain. But after rehab at Hospital for Special Care and her determination to stay active, Kim hiked the long way up to the top, hand in hand with Jaelyn.

After 36 years, Kim decided it was time to quit smoking, which she did in 2007. However, what she expected was different than what actually happened.

From what she had heard, after quitting you gain more energy. Though she was patient, Kim noticed that rather than gaining energy, she was losing energy. Climbing up the stairs to do laundry became much more of a chore and required a long rest before finishing. Both shopping and playing with Jaelyn were much harder than they once were. “I listened to my body, and knew this wasn’t me,” she said. “I was always an active person.”

This prompted her to visit her pulmonologist. Her doctor sent her for a chest x-ray, which revealed she had a form of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): emphysema.

In January of 2013, Kim came to HSC to join the pulmonary rehab program. Elyse Carroll, BS, RRT, AE-C, Respiratory Disease Manager, told her that she was going to “get her more energy.” She walked on the treadmill, and used hand weights. “You lose muscle with COPD,” she said. “It’s like a weakness where you cannot free yourself to keep going.” Though hesitant at first, Kim quickly noticed a big improvement in her energy levels.

Kim and Jaelyn making brownies Kim describes the program at HSC as “amazing.” They were very encouraging at HSC; they’d push you to keep going, and they’d congratulate and cheer for you when you completed a task.” Kim said, “They really became my friends...I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.” At the end of the program, Kim noticed a big change in her lung functions; she says it now takes more effort to get out of breath. With her regained energy, Kim went back to work as a cashier at Ocean State Job Lot, and she exercises in the HSC Aquatic and Fitness Center two or three times a week. Her favorite machine is the elliptical, which she uses for half an hour.

She continues to come to The Special Care Breath-Takers meetings, the once-a-month pulmonary support group at HSC, and she often goes out to lunch with some friends she’s made there. After picking Jaelyn up from school in the afternoons, Kim says that Jaelyn always asks her, “Have you taken your medication today grandma?” and “Did you go to the gym today grandma?”

Quitting was the “best thing I ever did,” Kim said. Though it took a different turn for Kim, with the help of HSC’s Pulmonary Rehab and COPD Disease Management Program, she is now able to go shopping, work part-time, do household chores and stay active all day long.

“HSC gave me my life back.” And at the end of the day she has the energy and excitement for ‘together time’ with Jaelyn.

Their favorite time? Baking chocolate brownies!