Retired teacher with a passion for travel!
Age at Treatment: 67
Hospital: Henry Ford Health System
Date of Procedure: September 2019
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
I was a truck driver for Walmart for 28 years. In December ‘99, I was on a run and felt like I was coming down with the flu so I went home and rested. Well, it wasn’t just the flu because a week later I was in the hospital with only 10% lung function, placed in a drug-induced coma, and hooked up to a ventilator.
I was diagnosed with emphysema complicated by bronchitis. I quit smoking right then and with the use of inhalers, my stamina built back up. After three months, I returned to work and was able to continue for several years until 2017 when I had five exacerbations and my lung health really declined.
In 2017 my mom was in the hospital and I had to go to Iowa to care for her. The stress of the situation coupled with hot/humid weather put me in the hospital for a week when I got home. I had only been using oxygen at night, but after this flare-up I needed it every day. Regulations prohibited me from having an oxygen tank on my truck so I had to take a leave of absence from work, eventually retiring completely.
After 2017, the disease stole my life as I knew it from me. I went from driving a truck across the U.S. to struggling just to walk around the house. We downsized our home because I couldn’t care for our two-acre property anymore. Working on cars was my hobby and I couldn’t do that anymore. I had to sell my ’69 Chevelle. Life became very frustrating.
I wasn’t hesitant when I heard about valves but had a lot of questions. Dr. Sharma was honest and explained that I wasn’t going to get rid of the disease, but this treatment was a chance to breathe better.
Life After Zephyr Valves:
The procedure went very well and I had no complications. I had prepared myself by building strength at pulmonary rehab so that I had a better chance of the valves working for me to help increase my lung function. Forty-five days after the procedure, my lung function was up to 49%.
I didn’t expect the valves to work on their own because they don’t instantly deflate the lung lobe. I knew I had to put in the work so I went back to pulmonary rehab and I still go twice a week. My insurance coverage for visits is used up, but I pay out of pocket because it is worth it!
In March 2020, I had an exacerbation and was in the hospital for seven days which sent my lung function plummeting again. I had to go back on oxygen 24/7, but I bounced back a lot faster than I would have before my valves. When pulmonary rehab was able to reopen in June, I went back and was able to wean off of oxygen faster than before the valves and my latest test showed that my lung function was back up to 46%.
It has taken about a year for my treated lobe to fully deflate. I can definitely do more, like stairs, taking out the trash, and light housework, and I don’t have to rush to get the oxygen. I can go shopping and now I can carry my own groceries into the house. I’ve also found that I am tolerating the cold weather much better this winter. I’m looking forward to traveling and going out dancing again once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
I am continuing at rehab and I’ve been able to add weight to the machines as well as continue my cardio exercises. I’ve become the valve spokesperson at rehab. For me it has been all pros, no cons!
The valves have given me more hope. I knew I had inner strength, but this gave me the opportunity to get better and do more again. I am looking forward to dancing again!