When 56-year-old Terrence Jordan of Floral Park, NY, first enrolled in NYU Winthrop Hospital’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program in September 2013, he set a goal for himself to complete the 13th Annual Stephen Siller Tunnel-to-Towers Run/Walk. On September 28, 2014, with the blessing of his medical team and his friends and family at his side, the retired Fire Department of New York (FDNY) lieutenant and September 11, 2001 (9/11) first responder, now 45 pounds lighter and equipped with a walker carrying a portable battery-operated oxygen concentrator, achieved his goal.
“Words can’t express how wonderful it felt to walk across that finish line, knowing how far I’ve come in just one year and I have the NYU Winthrop Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program and the World Trade Center Health Program to thank for it,” said Jordan.
Just one year ago, Jordan, who made extraordinary sacrifices in the wake of 9/11 working tireless hours as an FDNY lieutenant to assist with the rescue and recovery efforts, couldn’t walk more than half a block without feeling out of breath and in pain. Since 9/11, Jordan has coped with a host of pulmonary-related conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), severe emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, and lung nodules. In fact, he was among the first group of officers to retire from the FDNY because of 9/11-related medical issues.
Regular evaluations, monitoring and treatment through the World Trade Center Health Program, under the medical direction of David Prezant, MD, have been instrumental in helping Jordan navigate all of the necessary treatments and testing he’s had to endure over the last 13 years. But Jordan also faced the incredible challenge of relearning how to walk following a stroke in November 2010.
“I was having trouble breathing and became grossly overweight because of my lack of physical activity,” said Jordan. “I needed to find something that could help me get my life back.”
Then Jordan recalled that his wife, Theresa, had shared an article with him about the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program helping a retired police detective with advanced emphysema to drastically improve his life. Jordan wondered whether it too might be able to help him, so he shared the article with Dr. Prezant, who agreed the program would be beneficial.
Through intensive, supervised exercise, education, behavior modification and emotional support, NYU Winthrop’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program offers patients the opportunity to improve their lives by learning ways to cope with their lung conditions. The program also helps patients gradually improve their endurance and return to a healthier, more active lifestyle through an exercise program tailored to each patient’s specific needs and abilities. The program is staffed by a team of registered nurses, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists who are committed to meeting the unique needs of each patient.
“Often, a pulmonary rehabilitation program is the single best thing for patients with chronic lung disease,” said Peter Spiegler, MD, director of NYU Winthrop’s Medical Intensive Care Unit and a pulmonologist who refers to the NYU Winthrop Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. “Our multidisciplinary team works together to create a unique plan to help each patient improve his or her quality of life and that is what makes the biggest difference.”
Upon enrolling in the program, it wasn’t long before Jordan began to reap the benefits, with his breathing, physical endurance and strength steadily increasing.
“When I first began the program, I couldn’t walk on the treadmill for more than five minutes,” recalls Mr. Jordan. “Today, I can walk five miles!”
Mr. Jordan’s stamina and breathing are not the only things that have improved as a result of NYU Winthrop’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. The program, coupled with a new, healthy way of eating, has improved Jordan’s overall health so much that he has stunned his surgical team with his progress. In fact, upon a recent evaluation, they concluded he is no longer a candidate for lung volume reduction surgery a procedure by which portions of the diseased lungs are removed to improve lung function.
“My condition has stabilized and my doctors say that I can expect to live a relatively normal length of life with the aid of oxygen therapy,” said Jordan.
Though life has improved considerably for Jordan over the course of the last year, he is now committed to continuing his health journey at home, and in the company of a good friend and neighbor one who is also reaping the benefits of NYU Winthrop’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.
Joe Dwyer was recently diagnosed with emphysema and because of Jordan’s success, he too recently enrolled in NYU Winthrop’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. The two men are motivating each other, replicating some of the very same exercises they have learned through the program in a spare bedroom that Jordan has since transformed into a gym.
“We have both benefitted tremendously from the program and are just so thankful to be enjoying life again,” said Jordan.