Two Decades Later Pulmonary Rehab Patient Inspiration to Others

Breathing Through a Diagnosis of COPD

Author: Sherry Farney

In 2000, Sherry Lemere’s life changed forever. At the time, she worked at McLaren Flint as a unit clerk in pre-admission testing, a department that assists patients scheduled to have a procedure. Little did she know at that time she was about to become a patient with a chronic disease. It started when she was unable to recover from pneumonia.

“I was told asthma and emphysema that were dormant caused my extended illness,” said Sherry. “I was also told my condition was so bad I’d need to be placed on the lung transplant list one day. I’m considered a stage 4 COPD patient and am happy to say I’ve never been hospitalized over all these years due to my condition.”

COPD is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COPD affects 16 million Americans. In 2001, Sherry took medical advice from her pulmonologist and started pulmonary rehabilitation, an outpatient service offered by McLaren Flint.

“It’s probably why I’m still alive and kicking and doing as well as I am,” said Sherry. “The staff teach you how to breathe, about medications, how to exercise, and they provide additional education including how nutrition can affect your condition.”

Sherry has become a devoted pulmonary rehabilitation patient, who 22 years later, at the age of 75, chooses to pay a small monthly fee to continue to stay in the program where she spends time three days a week exercising.

“It gives you a good quality of life, and the staff is great,” added Sherry. “I only have 27% lung capacity, but I’m still doing well. I usually only need to use oxygen when I’m doing my exercises and on bad breathing days.”

When she encounters others using oxygen in public, she often approaches them and asks if they participate in pulmonary rehabilitation and, if not, encourages them to do so.

“Sherry is one of those patients who faced her condition head-on and decided to do everything she can to take control of her health,” said Kimberly DeJonghe, one of the three Registered Respiratory Therapists who work with patients at McLaren Pulmonary Rehabilitation. “She encourages other patients and is an incredible ambassador for our program. She is an inspiration to us as well.”

The program also offers participants comradery. It’s a place where people facing the same challenges can sit and talk and understand what others are going through.

McLaren’s program is certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). It was one of the first in the country to receive accreditation decades ago.

“There is hope for a more full and active life if you have COPD like me,” said Sherry. “You can sit and be sick or get up and do something and live your best life.”

To learn more about McLaren’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program, visit