ST. GEORGE — Patty and Allen Hannert have been through about everything together in their 43 years of marriage, including both not being able to breathe very easily.
Patty Hannert is a patient at Dixie Regional Medical Center's Respiratory Outpatient Clinic in St. George. A recent sinus infection went to her lungs, complicating an existing battle with chronic lung disease.
Allen Hannert’s condition is just as bad. He spent 38 years working in the coal mines.
“Well it was dark mainly — lots of coal dust,” he described. “Kind of a hard job.”
Doctors said his exposure to coal dust contributed to his diagnoses of stage three Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD. They both admit smoking hasn't helped their conditions. They regularly visit the clinic for treatment and education sessions with a provider.
Scott Daniel, Manager of Respiratory Care Services at Dixie Regional Medical Center, said this clinic is the only one like it in the entire state of Utah. He said it’s also fairly unique across the nation at this point in time.
Daniel said the goal is two-fold. First, he hopes “to be physician extenders to some degree and alleviate some of the backlogs in the physicians’ offices” for patients who have already received a diagnosis.
Secondly, Daniel said the goal is to educate patients with chronic pulmonary disease on how to further treat and manage their illness.
“What we’ve done traditionally in healthcare is we focus on treating the patient when they come into the hospital and the purpose of this clinic is to help with the (continuation) of their care,” Daniel said.
He said patients meet one-on-one with a specialist in the clinic to develop a treatment plan, manage the plan, and prevent hospitalizations and exacerbations of their illness.
Patty Hannert first met with Intermountain Healthcare's respiratory therapist Kyle White. He sat down with Patty Hannert, evaluated her current condition, and helped her get on a treatment plan back to recovery.
Along the way, White has taught Patty Hannert about how to improve her condition. He says exercise can improve lung capacity. “Try your hardest to live an active life,” he said.
White also said smoking is the number one cause of COPD. “Do not smoke and if you do, stop today,” he said.
Today, Patty says she's learned more about how to manage her illness. “When I came here, he reshowed us what to do,” she said.
Still together, both Patty and Allen Hannert are on their road to healing.
“I can breathe better,” Patty Hannert said. Her husband chimed in saying, “It’s always good to breathe,” with a little chuckle.
Daniel said patients can attend the clinic with a referral from their pulmonologist or family doctor. Intermountain Healthcare has plans to bring similar clinics to Ogden, Salt Lake, and Utah County.