Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Offers Virtual Sessions

With a ring light attached to the top of her computer monitor, exercise physiologist Eden Marsalis goes online and says hello to Sandra Rauhuff. The two women exchange greetings, visit
for just a few minutes and then get to work. Rauhuff was the very first patient to take advantage of virtual sessions offered by Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation. It’s allowed her to get the help she needs during a pandemic year when attending rehab sessions in person wasn’t a viable option. “I thought that was a wonderful idea,” Rauhuff says. “I get to be in my comfort zone and still do rehab…so I’m thankful for the opportunity to rehab virtually.”

Eden Marsalis at computer
Exercise physiologist Eden Marsalis monitors patients’ exercises remotely as part of their cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.

Rauhuff says the sessions were set for three times each week. Marsalis plays the role of host in a combination of live instructions and prerecorded video segments demonstrating exercises the patient can copy.

A New Idea

“We were thinking about different ways for people to get exercise,” Marsalis says, “and since people were working from home, we thought maybe we could try exercising from home.” While the virtual sessions may have been born out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re beginning to stand on their own as an import- ant option for some of the patients who need help most. Marsalis explains that online therapy helps patients who have transportation issues, or who feel they are too weak and too vulnerable to show up in person at the start of rehab. “A lot of them cannot or don’t want to drive an hour into cardiac rehab and we totally understand that,”  Marsalis says. “We’d much rather have them in-house where we can really monitor them, but this is definitely the second best thing.”

Rauhuff’s sessions have always been one-on-one, but Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation also offers group classes online. Some classes are specifically geared toward patients who have heart problems. Others are tailor-made for people like Rauhuff who need help strengthening their lungs.

Comprehensive Care

Sessions can include education as well as exercise, drawing on the expertise of various members of the cardiopulmonary team, from the nurses to the registered dietitian. At specific points during exercise, Marsalis instructs her patients to pause and check vital signs,  making sure the exercise is safe for them. Lung patients also check oxygen levels. It’s a medically supervised plan that’s individualized for each participant. “They worked with me,” Rauhuff says. “None of the exercises were extremely hard, but helped build muscle back up, and in my case, adjust breathing to better maintain my oxygen levels.” Rauhuff  was diagnosed with COPD 20 years ago, and has been in cardiopulmonary rehab programs off and on for about eight years to manage the effects. This was her first time going through a virtual program and she was happy with the  results. “I’m not well by any means, but most of the time I can cook meals and I still do basic care for  myself, so that’s still a plus,” Rauhuff says.

Bringing the Music Back

Sandra holding guitar.
Finally strong enough to pull a guitar onto her lap and play music, Sandra Rauhuff found a restored sense of joy that she hadn’t experienced in a long time.

Six months before her virtual cardiopulmonary rehabilitation began, Rauhuff was unable to pick up her guitar case. She hadn’t played in years. After rehab, she
pulled the guitar onto her lap and finally began playing. Strains of folk music filled her home and her daughter sang their old favorites. Rauhuff plans to sing along soon.
Rauhuff remembers growing up in a home filled with music. As she grips the guitar that she intends to pass down to her grandson, she is  reconnected to that heritage and reconnected to a better quality of life. For Marsalis, virtual cardiopulmonary rehabilitation means giving more patients a better chance to reclaim some of the things heart and lung problems have tried to take away. “Everyone has done great. They’ve really become team players and they’ve all improved  so much,” Marsalis says. Virtual cardiopulmonary rehabilitation may be relatively new, but there’s little doubt about its staying power. It’s fast becoming one more way that Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation offers excellence in rehab to heart and lung patients in East Tennessee.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

The goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is to help patients who have chronic lung disease learn how to manage symptoms and enjoy the best life possible. Parkwest Pulmonary Rehabilitation was one of the first programs to receive national certification by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation for consistent clinical outcomes with lung patients.

Individuals who have lung disease and who are referred by an attending physician are eligible for two sessions per week over the course of 12 to 18 weeks. Each session includes medically supervised  and monitored exercise. Individual counseling helps patients with home oxygen use, breathing  retraining, stress management, home exercise, diet and medications.

Pulmonary rehabilitation can help almost anyone who has trouble breathing at any stage, no matter what the cause may be:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Emphysema
  • Lung cancer
  • Lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS)
  • Asthma
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Interstitial lung disease

Some benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation include:

  • Greater independence
  • Physical strength and endurance for exercise
  • Less shortness of breath
  • Fewer hospitalizations
    Another benefit of pulmonary rehabilitation is enhanced emotional wellness. The exercise and camaraderie can help ease depression and anxiety that are not uncommon in patients who have chronic lung disease. Parkwest can also help connect patients with counselors and other resources to help.

For more information about Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, (865)531-5570, 1-800-556-3404 toll free or visit

A Fighting Chance

Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation arms patients with the tools they need to successfully manage heart and lung conditions. Exercise physiologist Eden Marsalis says it gives patients education and accountability they can’t get by exercising at home alone on their own. “I think for a lot of people it’s hard to exercise at home without having that moral support,”
Marsalis says.

Marsalis says patients are often unaware of how much they can learn through the center’s education  and exercise sessions. Those lessons can include anything from how to change settings on an oxygen  tank to reasons behind their conditions. “We talk through why they have symptoms,” Marsalis says, “and a lot of them are very surprised.”

The knowledge shared by the staff at Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation comes from years of study and experience. This is a medically supervised rehabilitation program overseen
by professionals. “We are a team,” Marsalis says. “We have respiratory therapists, we have a couple of exercise  physiologists, we have nurses and we have a registered dietitian.”

One of the many advantages to this medically supervised approach is that the patient doesn’t have  to guess whether they are exercising at a safe level. Patients are closely monitored during  exercise, whether it’s in person or online. If a heart rate gets too high or a dizzy spell sets in, trained personnel are on hand to offer help  and guidance immediately. Patients can also get expert input and answers to questions about  medications, weight management and emotional wellness. Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation is prescribed therapy for heart and lung patients. To find out if it’s right for you, see your doctor and ask about a referral.