For Tasha Woodard, breathing is a burden. Only recently diagnosed with genetic emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary hypertension, she now fights for as much independence as she can as she navigates new therapies, medications and care regimes.
“The best thing that came out of my last hospitalization was that I was referred to Christiana Care Visiting Nurse Association and met Alicia Marchesani, RN, my nurse, and Mark Bastianelli, PT, my physical therapist,” Woodard said. “That was about six months ago and as far as I am concerned, they are now family.”
Prior to receiving help from the VNA, Woodard relied on friends and family members to help her as the disease sapped her energy and decreased her ability to tackle tasks she typically found easy, like grocery shopping and getting to and from doctor appointments.
“I am an independent person and was following a plan I had for myself for a career, hobbies and friends. Being diagnosed hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only was I feeling just awful physically, but all of a sudden my independent lifestyle was very threatened. It was hard for me to ask for help and then have to rely on other people to do almost everything for me,” she said.
For patients like Woodard, gaining strength to slow the progress of the disease so that they can feel better and stay more active is a primary concern. So is staying comfortable and safe at home.
“Alicia brings me great comfort. I live alone, so having her come to me to check on how I am feeling and help me with my care makes a big difference,” said Woodard, who also uses a telemonitoring system that electronically records and reports her vital signs to a VNA nurse daily. “Between Alicia and the monitor, I know people are looking out for me.”
Physical therapy is an important part of her care, and having a VNA physical therapist come to her home helps her develop independence with daily activities in the most convenient and comfortable setting. Because Woodard is exhausted easily, she is at risk for falling. Building up strength is key to better balance, which, in turn, will reduce her risk of falling.
“Exercise is key to function, for everyone. Younger women like Woodard will naturally take between 7,000 and 10,000 steps a day,” explained Bastianelli. “But for Tasha, achieving 700 steps a day will exhaust her because of her disease. I’m here to help her improve her strength as much as possible and make breathing easier.”
Woodard is a proponent of independence and good self-care — it’s what allows her to stay as active as possible, including working as a talent booker for an online radio talk show. But she appreciates the professional, skilled help that comes to her from Christiana Care VNA. She also appreciates the joy they bring to her life.
“I just love Alicia and Mark to death,” she said. “They are awesome caregivers, advocates and friends. I look forward to seeing them every week.”
Even more rewarding for Woodard is that her VNA caregivers help her meet two important goals: to stay as independent as possible and stay out of the hospital.
“With Alicia, Mark and the VNA, I am able to stay home and stay out of the hospital,” said Woodard, who prior to having VNA care, was in and out of the hospital four times in two months. “The whole VNA program keeps me safe at home, where I want to be.”