Inspiring Stories

Cardiopulmonary Rehab Staff Helps Patient’s Husband Receive Much-Needed Care

Published: Nov. 17, 2022

Paul Allen and his wife, Arma Jo, with cardiopulmonary rehab staff members Kelly Culjat and Denise Bainter.


Paul Allen always accompanies his wife, Arma Jo, at her pulmonary rehabilitation appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Methodist Physicians Clinic in Council Bluffs.

He normally pulls in a chair from the front lobby to sit next to Arma Jo as she prepares for her exercises. But on Tuesday, Oct. 11, Paul could barely move the chair.

The unusual behavior caught the attention of Denise Bainter, MS, an exercise specialist at pulmonary rehab.

“I went over to her (Arma Jo) and said, ‘What’s up with Paul?’” Bainter said. “And she said, ‘He’s sick. He’s not feeling well. But I don’t know anything.’”

Kelly Culjat, RN, also noticed that Paul looked a little off and might need attention.

She proceeded to check Paul’s heart rate, breathing and blood pressure.

“I didn’t like the way he looked, and I didn’t like how his lungs sounded,” Culjat said.

Although Paul wasn’t an established patient with a primary care provider in Council Bluffs, Culjat quickly phoned the office of internist Alan Kricsfeld, MD, located just upstairs from the rehabilitation clinic.

“I refused to let him go home,” Culjat said. “I told him, ‘You have to be admitted to the hospital. You have to see a doctor.’”

Thanks to the quick action of Bainter and Culjat, Paul was able to have a same-day appointment with internist Kalpana Puri, MD, and later was admitted to the hospital.


Necessary Persuasion

The initial diagnosis from Dr. Puri didn’t sound good. Paul’s heart rate was elevated, and he had shortness of breath. Dr. Puri told him to head across campus to the Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital Emergency Department (ED).

After some persuasion, Paul made his way over to the ED. He tested positive for COVID-19, and additional scans showed lots of fluid in his lungs, which led him to be admitted into the hospital.

“It was impressive that all of our staff members were able to coordinate and set him up for an office visit,” Dr. Puri said. “Otherwise, he may not have gone to the emergency department himself.”

During his nearly weeklong hospital stay, Paul learned that his heart wasn’t properly moving blood from his lungs. Things could’ve turned out much worse if he had waited any longer to receive care.

But thanks to the care he received at the hospital, Paul returned to his home in Council Bluffs and is on his path to recovery. He recently resumed driving around Arma Jo, taking trips to Menards and Home Depot, and mowing the lawn with his riding lawn mower.


Getting To Know Patients’ Families

It was Arma Jo who started rehab in September because of her emphysema. But when the cardiopulmonary rehab staff members saw Paul’s struggles, they needed to intervene.

“It’s part of our job,” Culjat said. “We take care of the families, as well. It’s not just the patient. We take care of the whole unit.”

Patients who need cardiac or pulmonary rehab are usually scheduled for two sessions a week for at least 12 weeks, and sometimes up to 18 weeks. Bainter said this frequency allows staff members the chance to develop a relationship with the patient, as well as anyone who brings them to appointments.

“Paul drives her every day, so he sits right there, and we get to know him too,” she said. “You get to know patients’ spouses or whoever brings them because they’re there every time either waiting in the lobby, or you’re right there talking to them.”

Paul and Arma Jo Allen with Denise Bainter
Paul watches as Arma Jo has her pulse checked by Denise Bainter.

Bainter has worked in Council Bluffs since May and spent 25 years in cardiopulmonary rehab at Methodist Hospital.

“Our job is to treat the patient, but, obviously, if there’s another issue like that, you become familiar with their family, so you catch onto things like verbal cues,” she said.

And for Paul’s sake, it’s good that Bainter and Culjat took necessary actions to check his vitals and set up an appointment.

“It made a big difference for him because it could have literally been life or death if he would’ve waited a little bit longer,” Bainter said. “Because he was way sicker than he was letting on when he came in.”

“I am proud of my cardiopulmonary staff and the work they do to ensure good outcomes not only for our patients but for their families as well,” said Marcia Keith, MS, BSRT, the cardiopulmonary rehab manager. “They were quick to identify that Mr. Allen wasn’t feeling well that day, and they went above and beyond to get him the help he needed.” 


“They Care”

Paul can’t help but express his appreciation for what Bainter and Culjat did to help him receive the care he needed. 

“You better take care of those people,” he said. “There are no finer people I’ve ever met than those two, Denise and Kelly. They care about you. They visit with you. They’re just good people.”

The same week that he was dismissed from the hospital, Paul resumed taking Arma Jo to her rehab appointments.

He stayed in the car with their grandson who also made the trip, but following Arma Jo’s rehab session, Culjat came out to check in with Paul.

“She looked at me and said, ‘You look great,’” Paul said. “She gave me a big hug. And I thanked her for saving my life.”

Paul Allen and Kelly Culjat
Paul shares a laugh with Kelly Culjat.

More Resources

About the Author

Anthony Robinson, a content strategist for Methodist Health System, joined the marketing team after spending over five years as a college athletics public relations professional. He enjoys being able to use his writing ability to tell compelling stories that embody The Meaning of Care

See more articles from Anthony Robinson
Anthony Robinson Head Shot