Respiratory Self-Care

Self-monitoring vital signs at home – 12 months of self-care by Pauline

Pauline developed a cough 2-3 years ago and couldn’t shake it. A respiratory nurse at her GP’s surgery referred her to the local hospital for clinical evaluation and was then diagnosed with Bronchiectasis, which is a long-term respiratory condition where the airways of the lungs become abnormally widened, leading to a build-up of excess mucus. This made her lungs more vulnerable to infections. The most common symptoms of bronchiectasis are a persistent productive cough and breathlessness that gets worse with each chest infection.

Pauline volunteered to join the Aseptika clinical trial in which patients undertook the recording of their vital signs and recorded their symptoms, using Activ8rlives simple medical monitors which connect to an iPad using the Company’s Lung Health App (now available on the Apple App store).

Each day, Pauline recorded up to 41 parameters of health with the built-in questionnaires and recorded her own blood oxygen levels, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, weight and body composition, levels of physical activity with wrist-worn activity tracker and her lung function (Peak Flow and FEV1 values). Pretty impressive for someone who had never measured these at home before.

The trial was undertaken to discover how these vital health signs changed before, during and after a chest infection or exacerbation (flare-up of symptoms) and how the levels of certain bacteria in volunteers lungs changed before, during and after a flare-up. When askers her motivation her to join the Trial, Pauline’s replied “That if it was going to do any good, I was willing to have a go.”

Just before she started the trial, Pauline had been very ill. She had been issued with a rescue pack of antibiotics in the event of a chest infection and had two severe bouts, losing weight and lung function while ill. When she became ill, she was prone to losing ½ stone in weight very quickly.

The daily self-monitoring fitted in very easily with Pauline’s routine and she got on with collecting 41 pieces of information first thing in the morning, taking less than 10 minutes to complete.

Pauline attended twice weekly sessions for six weeks of Pulmonary Rehabilitation during the period of the clinical trial, and these are funded by the NHS and are specifically tailored for respiratory disease patients who are assisted through breathing exercises, general exercises to improve pulmonary health, lung clearance and lots of helpful learning about living with a respiratory condition

Pauline continued to self-monitor beyond the completion of the clinical trial as she found it provided her with considerable health benefits – less coughing and better control of her breathing. As a result of dedicated effort on her part in managing her health, she has learnt better breathing and lung mucus clearance techniques. “I don’t like doing the exercises, but it really does work for me”.

Pauline has regained 20-25% of her lung function since she started using the Lung Health App and is actively engaging in Self-Care. She has also put on weight and muscle mass from being underweight prior to the change in Self-Care.

One of the many health benefits of Pauline’s continued daily Self-Care routine is that she has also been able to be more physically active. Using her wrist activity tracker, she has increased her daily step count by about 2,000 steps per day. Pauline has also now been able to reengage with formal exercise activities and attends Aqua Aerobic classes twice a week, and although she doesn’t always feel like going she always appreciates it when she has gone along for the session.

Pauline continues to use the techniques of breathing that she has learnt and they have become second nature to her now. The breathing techniques have helped her through periods of exercise to recover her breath quicker and to maintain it whilst still exercising. For example, climbing stairs no longer sets off a coughing fit or breathlessness.  “I would have liked to have continued with the Pulmonary Rehabilitation classes which gives you the discipline and encourages you to go out and do the self-monitoring, exercises and it was fun as well. But they are not available in my area.”

As a consequence of better health this year “I’ve visited friends in Norway and although she doesn’t live in the mountainous region it is certainly hilly and I can get up and down those far more easily this year than a year or two ago”.

Life is very full for Pauline at the moment and a trip away is already planned for next year. “Previously I would have 2 or 3 days in bed feeling unwell but I haven’t had any of that this year and it’s been lovely to be so well”.