Making health a priority, even during a pandemic

In the midst of social distancing and extra stress, it has been difficult for some people to manage existing or emerging health issues during the pandemic. Wally and Lorraine Hawryschuk, with the help of their family doctor and the Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network, have proven it’s possible to actually improve both your health and your quality of life – even during a global health crisis.

The retired couple has always stayed active, but last summer Lorraine began having issues with shortness of breath and immediately booked an appointment with their family physician.

An unexpected diagnosis

“I had been exercising but was really having trouble with my lung capacity,” explains Lorraine, 73. “I’ve been asthmatic most of my life, but last July I noticed I was always short of breath and just didn’t feel good. I went to see our doctor and he decided he wanted to do a lung test and it came back indicating I had COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).” Although the diagnosis came as a surprise, the couple quickly took action. “We asked him if I could be referred for primary care, which he did. It only took a couple of days and we got a call. I spoke with someone and was signed up for the COPD Wellness Program.”

Lorraine began working with the six-week-long program, which provided virtual guidance and education to a group of newly diagnosed patients. “It explored a lot of important things, like what can make it worse, different medications and how to use them, how to breathe properly, manage stress, ways to relax and also physical activity. It was excellent – I can’t say enough about it.”

Wally, 78, spent 33 years teaching at a junior high school and was quite impressed by what he heard during Lorraine’s classes. “It was a relatively small class, which was great, and it was really well done, and it was effective.” Both Lorraine and Wally noted how impressed they were with the enthusiasm of ESPCN staff, who cared about the patients they were teaching and did an exceptional job helping people.

More support from the PCN

When routine blood work for Wally indicated that he was dealing with elevated cholesterol levels, he was offered the chance to work with one of the ESPCN’s Registered Dietitians and was happy to accept the assistance. “I was able to meet with Meredith and it was tremendously helpful. She was able to share information and even address some of the wrong information I had. The way she clarified that and her sense of humour in doing so, was so appreciated.” The advice she offered led them to modify some of their home cooking processes, including eating more fish and reducing their red meat consumption – easy changes that he feels are making a difference.

Staying active and engaged

Inspired by the Moving for Health class, Lorraine made walking a daily part of her routine – even in the coldest days of winter. Both Wally and Lorraine enjoy gardening, biking and walking – they even do virtual yoga twice a week – and Wally is looking forward to returning to playing the rec hockey he enjoyed before it was paused by the pandemic. The fact that they have maintained and even improved their health during the pandemic, means they’re ready to embrace new and familiar adventures once things return to normal.

“I think the services available through PCNs are so helpful,” says Wally. “I wish more people knew about it. You have to be proactive about your health, but having these resources available and being able to work with your doctor to access them has been wonderful for us. I’m so appreciative that it’s available and that it’s provided by individuals who clearly care about people.”