Life-changing experience with Beebe’s pulmonary rehab program

November 10, 2020

In May 2019, Pete Harrigan was in the intensive care unit at Beebe Healthcare with a life-threatening case of pneumonia, and he wanted nothing more than to get out of the hospital.

But now he looks forward to visiting the Margaret H. Rollins Lewes Campus up to three times each week to participate in Beebe’s innovative Pulmonary Rehabilitation program. Beebe was recently named a Top 100 hospital for pulmonary care by Healthgrades.

Established in 2013, the program is designed to strengthen patients’ lung function and increase their endurance through a combination of medically supervised exercise, and education on topics such as lung health and nutrition. Pete’s pulmonologist, Dr. Vikas Batra, suggested that he enroll in the program.

“Having led a mostly sedentary lifestyle, which I now recognize was a major contributor to my illness, I was doubtful about my ability to exercise,” said Pete, a Rehoboth Beach resident.

When he arrived for his first session in October 2019, Beebe’s Pulmonary Rehab staff conducted a thorough assessment of Pete’s medical history, dietary choices and physical capacity. One result was a personalized exercise plan that took into account Pete’s arthritic knees, which made it difficult for him to use treadmills, stationary bicycles and certain other types of exercise equipment.

“The staff listened carefully to my limitations and needs, and had me use a NuStep machine, which provides a low-impact cardio and strength workout from a seated position,” said Pete, adding that his tailored exercise program also included use of an arm ergometer and dumbbells.

On succeeding visits, the staff gradually increased resistance levels and time spent on various machines. Sessions also included blood pressure and pulse oximetry monitoring before, during and after exercise. Pete said, “It provided confidence that I was pushing myself with beneficial exercise, but without overdoing it. By my final session, my endurance level had more than doubled, and I learned important lessons about how diet and other medical conditions can influence my lung health.”

By completing the initial phase of the Pulmonary Rehab program, Pete became eligible to use its facilities up to three times a week to maintain his lung health and stamina. During his regular visits to Pulmonary Rehab, Pete has made new friends among other patients and looks forward to socializing as they work out.

“The Pulmonary Rehab program, its staff and my fellow patients have become an important part of my continued good health and well-being,” said Pete. “I am grateful to the outstanding Pulmonary Rehab team of Pam Lowe, Kelly Thompson, Bryan Jones, Cindy Blemle, Ann Spillane and Cindy Adkins for their encouragement and support.”

This fall, after observing that Pulmonary Rehab’s two NuStep machines were in high demand, Pete contacted Beebe Medical Foundation to arrange for a donation to cover the cost of a new NuStep, which arrived in Pulmonary Rehab in late October.

“It’s an honor to be able to give back to a program that has given so much to me,” Pete said. “The Pulmonary Rehab program has been a life-changing experience for me, and is a great example of Beebe Healthcare’s commitment to keeping the community well in addition to aiding us when we’re ill.”

As a community-based, not-for-profit healthcare system, Beebe Healthcare depends on the generous support of the community it serves. To make a gift to celebrate the excellent care you or a loved one has received at Beebe, visit Beebe Medical Foundation at or call 302-644-2900. Want to share your story? Contact Amanda Neal at

Diane Barlow is the gift planning officer for Beebe Medical Foundation.

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