Kim Verwaayen

Kim Verwaayen got her life back

Kim Verwaayen

Kim Verwaayen says her turnaround has gone so well, it’s almost unbelievable. Almost.

But seeing her today, her demeanor and energy speak volumes about her remarkable physical and emotional state. It’s a far cry from where she was in late 2017.

In November, 2017 Verwaayen was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and with just 54 per cent of her lung function, the Women’s Studies professor at The University of Western Ontario was fatigued and embarrassed from coughing fits, often so severe they induced vomiting. Teaching, even socializing, seemed impossible and caused great amounts of anxiety.

“I used to be a vibrant, energetic and life-loving person,” Verwaayen said. “Before I came to West Park I would say I would give almost anything to get even a little bit of that person back.”

Verwaayen was referred to West Park, and remembers very clearly the day she arrived from London. “My father drove me in, and as we circled around campus to find parking, we saw these ‘Get Your Life Back’ signs, and when we saw the third one, we looked at each other and said out loud ‘Wouldn’t that be amazing’ and cried together.”

Verwaayen’s rehabilitation has been amazing, but not without hard work. “(The clinicians) worked us hard so we can meet our expectations. And because everything is monitored closely I felt protected and safe to push myself.”

Teaching Verwaayen and other patients how to manage their conditions is also the key to recovery.

“Learning how to breathe, strengthen our muscles is simple but genius,” says Verwaayen. Each day she and other respiratory rehabilitation inpatients attended a group breathing exercise class, an exercise class and an education class to learn about nutrition, breathing aids and anxiety among other topics.

“They say it takes 21-30 days to establish a habit, so with West Park I wanted to be able to go home, keep up my exercises, interact with people and breathe well,” Verwaayen says.

The learnings and tools she’s acquired at West Park have given her a new lease on life. “I don’t have exactly the same life as before my illness, but I have the best life possible,” Verwaayen says.

“West Park is a miracle place. I wish everyone who is ill could experience what happens at West Park.”