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Finnegan puts his lungs to the test

Prince Edward County’s Leo Finnegan put his lungs to the test in support of investigating a new piece of equipment at the County’s hospital.

Members of the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation watched a demonstration of a new spirometer the foundation purchased for the Family Health Team. The device is useful in diagnosing asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

A necessary piece of equipment, as nurse Dee Hazell notes respiratory ailments are common in the County, which ranks province-wide among the highest rates of current and former smokers, who often develop coughs, pneumonia and other breathing difficulties.

Finnegan, a past president of the foundation, volunteered to test it. Fran Donaldson, vice-chair of the PECMH Foundation, provided the following report:
What is Leo Finnegan up to now? He’s sitting very straight in his chair, with a soft blue plastic thing like a clothespin clamped to his nose, holding what looks like a hair dryer in his mouth. On command, he takes a deep breath and then blows, blows, BLOWS until he’s red in the face. Not quite enough; he’s asked to do it again!

No, it’s not some kind of game, not a roadside performance for the police, not a contest. Leo has volunteered to help to demonstrate a new medical apparatus. A spirometer, as you might deduce from the name, measures (“meter”) the patient’s breathing (“respiration”), and the PECMH Foundation has just purchased one for use in our hospital.

The demonstration was conducted by Dee Hazell, a registered nurse with the Family Health Team.

Other than the parts already described, the spirometer looks like any other laptop computer connected to the “hair dryer” piece.

“It’s really all about the software”, Dee explained. It measures volume and flow rate as the patient breathes and blows, providing a preliminary report on pulmonary function. It is a screening device, useful in diagnosing such problems as asthma, bronchitis and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Sometimes this test provides all the answers needed to diagnose and treat the patient; sometimes more information is required and the patient is then sent to Belleville or Trenton for the full Pulmonary Function Test.

Unfortunately, Dee said, respiratory ailments are quite common in the County, which ranks province-wide among the highest rates of current and former smokers, who often develop coughs, pneumonia and other breathing difficulties. Of course, there are other causes also, including a genetic component, so as part of the demonstration, Dee asked Leo several questions, such as his age and height, as well as whether he was or had been a smoker. Only cigars, Leo said, and a pipe for dramatic effect.

Of course, the spirometer is not a do-it-yourself device; you need to be referred by your doctor or nurse practitioner, and it requires a trained operator, like Dee, who is a Masters in Nursing and Certified Respiratory Educator.

She asked and recorded the answers to questions, describing herself to Leo as a “coach” who would tell him what to do at every step. But I think there is another very important component of personality, which Dee exemplified: she was cheerful, polite, informative and energetic, inspiring confidence and cooperation in her volunteer “patient”.

Having this and other diagnostic tools available in our hospital is very important. Getting an early and correct diagnosis is a critical first step to treatment and recovery. If caught early, some conditions can be treated effectively without a stay in the hospital. And one of the ways we can help our hospital is to stay healthy and stay home, reducing the demand on a resource that is often stretched to capacity – and beyond.

Other recent purchases by the Foundation include replacement colonoscopes and gastroscopes, a hand-held ultra-sound vein finder for dialysis patients, and a biometric reader for nurses to access patient medications instead of having to type a user name and password, while also contributing to the Re-imagine campaign, ensuring that County residents continue to have access to the best MRI equipment with short wait times.

For information on how you can help support equipment needs for the County’s hospital, contact Penny Rolinski, the Foundation’s Executive Director, or Briar Boyce, in the Foundation office, at (613) 476-1008 ext. 4503 or 4425. For more information about the Foundation, visit

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