• Pulmonary Rehabilitation graduate finds a way to pay it forward

    ROME – When Tom Kareckas graduated from Rome Memorial Hospital’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program in 2014, he regained control over his life and started to breathe better. Years later, he’s still active within the program and has found a way to give back.

    Since completing his rehab, Kareckas has been participating in a maintenance program offered by the department designed to keep his lungs functioning at optimal capacity.

    Unfortunately, the program has been suspended as a result of COVID-19, but Kareckas has chosen to donate the money he normally pays for the program to Rome Hospital Foundation.

    Tom Kareckas

    A long-time smoker, Kareckas developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease which restricts the flow of air in and out of the airway. The COPD Foundation states that this disease impacts up to 30 million adults in the US. Pulmonary Rehabilitation is considered a standard of treatment for anyone suffering from moderate or worse COPD.

    Although the program is an important tool in the fight against respiratory illness, it was suspended to help keep this vulnerable population safe from harm, according to Eileen Luley, service line administrator for cardiopulmonary and sleep services. “People with preexisting conditions, especially in the respiratory system, are particularly vulnerable to COVID complications, so we felt our best option was to limit their exposure,” she explained.

    Kareckas continues to exercise at home using the principles he learned from the pulmonary rehabilitation team, but admits he misses the staff and the friends he’s made through the program. “I’ve been using hand weights and walking outside a bit to keep moving, but I can’t wait to get back to my friends at the gym,” he said. “Lynda (Ferris) and her staff have done so much for me, and the friends I’ve made along the way help motivate me to keep coming back.”

    “I had been in the hospital several times for pneumonia back in 2013, and was having a tough time getting around,” he explained. “I had to quit golf and some other activities, but the rehab has helped me regain some of my activities and opened the world back up.”

    Kareckas hopes to inspire others to follow his lead and donate to the hospital. “I think we all owe a lot to the hospital and hopefully others can pitch in and help make a difference,” he said.

    Any wishing to donate funds to the hospital can do so by contacting Rome Hospital Foundation at 315.338.7181. Contributions may be made online at https://romehospital.thankyou4caring.org/donate