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Support group a breath of fresh air to Mon Valley residents

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By Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Better Breathers Club, a newly formed group, is aiming to help provide “maximum wellness” to Mon Valley residents who have difficulty breathing and to their caregivers, a group official said.

“Many patients experience difficulty breathing,” said Susan Campus, lead care manager for Monongahela Valley Hospital's Primary Care Resource Center. “When you can't breathe, it's terrifying. By having a support group when people are well ... we can bring people with different breathing issues together. Almost most importantly, they can hear from other people who are experiencing the same thing.”

The club, which hosts free monthly meetings, is “upbeat,” and staff want those involved to “achieve the maximum wellness they can have,” Campus said.

Mon Valley Hospital's year-old Primary Care Resource Center, a grant-funded department of the hospital, sponsors the program.

“One of our basic tenets is to follow patients who have chronic disease, especially chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure and coronary artery disease,” she said. “We help people manage their transition from the hospital to the home.”

The Better Breathers Club fits directly into the resource center's mission, she said.

The club is open to any adults with any breathing issues in the community, not just patients currently working with the resource center.

The group has held two meetings so far.

In addition to talking about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure, the group has discussed what an Air Action Alert means, Campus said.

Nora Evans serves as facilitator for the Better Breathers Club in Mon Valley, which is affiliated with the American Lung Association. Similar groups meet in Uniontown and Washington.

Evans said she allows participants to select the topics they'd like to discuss. Next time, they'll learn about sleep apnea, she said.

The group has also talked about self-image related to wearing an oxygen tank.

“That's where it comes into play where they can support each other,” Evans said. “Sometimes they don't do what they want to do because they don't want to wear their oxygen out.”

To Evans, the program is “a real service to the community,” which needs the resources.

“(We're) presenting it in a light that makes it very life-affirming, very upbeat,” Campus said. “You can educate yourself and learn tips from people who have dealt with this, as well as professionals.”

Any interested adults can attend the free meetings. No registration is required.

The group meets the second Tuesday of each month from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Anthony M. Lombardi Education Conference Center at Mon Valley Hospital.

With questions, call 724-258-1932.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or

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