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Lung patients can find help at new winterization clinics

Getting pulmonary patients ready for winter in Carmel, Indiana

Travis Robinson | News 8 at 10 p.m.

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — As the weather gets colder, patients with lung issues have a growing risk for severe illnesses.

Health experts say patients should make sure their records are up to date and know the best resources available. That’s why IU Health is doing something a little different this year to help people stay out of the doctor’s office.

Russell Rainwater has chronic asthma.

“Until I take one of those Advairs and get it in my lungs, I just have to struggle to get my breath and get it going,” Rainwater said.

But when flu season hits, he’s rarely thought about prevention.

“Not really,” Rainwater said. “I got breathers that I have to use so I can get my breath going, but I don’t have any real problems with getting ready for winter.”

That is, until Wednesday. He visited IU Health’s winterization clinic. Medical professionals there work with pulmonary patients in a group setting to get to know their conditions and prepare them for their most dangerous season.

“It’s giving them a vaccine,” said Dr. Marc Rovner, an IU Health pulmonary physician. “It’s fixing their inhalers, making sure they’re OK for the winter. It’s stopping their smoking and it’s making sure that they have the resources they need, and that’s a relatively new idea.”

“That sounds good to me,” Rainwater said. “I like that.”

The group setting allows patients with similar conditions to compare notes and lets doctors see patients before they’re in bad shape and give them contacts to help them stay healthy.

“If they’re like, ‘I don’t know how to use this’ or ‘I’m feeling a little sick, maybe I need to call my primary car doctor,’ we have a mechanism to have them call and ask questions after this,” the doctor said. “It’s to start the process of people knowing how to get in touch with resources they might not be aware of.”

This is the first year IU Health has tried winterization clinics and hopes it can continue to help pulmonary patients in the future, but Rainwater said the best way to help is to not let your lungs get to this point in the first place.

“If you’re smoking, quit,” Rainwater said. “And exercise and keep yourself in shape.”

There will be more winterization clinics in the future. The next clinic is planned for Nov. 1 at IU Health Eagle Highlands, 6820 Parkdale Place in Indianapolis.