Report to our community 2018-19

Karolee Stevens

Meet Karolee Stevens

Karolee used to find simple activities, the kind that everyone takes for granted, like laughing, lying down or taking a deep breath, would lead to persistent and painful coughing fits. A result of bronchiectasis, an often underdiagnosed, chronic lung condition that causes the walls of the airways (bronchi) to be permanently inflamed and dilated, causing mucus accumulation and greater vulnerability to lung infections. Karolee was in her forties and feeling frustrated by the lack of symptom alleviation brought on by the recommended course of treatment: an inhaler two times per day. She wasn’t feeling hopeful for new treatments and was becoming resigned to the fact that this would be a lifelong and limiting condition.

All this changed when the Chronic Disease Self-Management registered nurse at Bruyère’s Academic Family Health Team, Isabelle LeClerc, intervened.

Isabelle, also diagnosed with bronchiectasis, was disappointed by the lack of information available to her to help manage her condition. She decided, with the support of the clinic administrators and physicians, to build an innovative bronchiectasis program as part of the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program at Bruyère.

In developing the program, Isabelle participated in international conferences, built her network and became a recognized expert on the topic, gathering information to be able to educate patients on how to better self-manage this disease.

Isabelle was able to equip Karolee with specific breathing exercises, positional drainage techniques and an Oscillating Positive Expiratory (OPEP) device that helps Karolee schedule her coughs — helping her break down and expel mucous that in return relieves her symptoms. Isabelle equipped Karolee with the information needed to ask the right questions of her respirologist, including those related to the use of antibiotics. 
The Bruyère Deprescribing Research Team is helping prescribers across Canada to reduce or stop a person’s medication when it may be causing harm or may no longer be of benefit. Learn more at deprescribing.org.
This life-changing intervention has resulted in reduced visits to the respirologist, cutting the number of annual appointments in half — and Karolee is now medication-free. Her lung function has improved, she has more strength and energy, and she can now feel relief instead of fear when taking a deep breath, feeling the condition is 100% managed.

In the beginning, the bronchiectasis program developed by Isabelle was only available to patients at the Bruyère Family Medicine Centre, however, with support from the LHIN, this program can now be accessed by all individuals in the region. This self-management program is keeping people healthy through educating, supporting and motivating patients so they can decrease symptoms, reducing hospital visits and improving quality of life.