Able to do simple things like walk to the kitchen and get a coffee.
Age at Treatment: 70
Hospital: OU Interventional Pulmonology, Oklahoma City, OK
Date of Procedure: January 2022
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
I was fortunate enough to have the procedure done in January and it was the best thing I ever did for myself!
My COPD/emphysema had been at Stage 4 for over 10 years, and I have had no more than 30% lung function for the past five years. I was using 4 liters of oxygen 24/7 and still had to stop to catch my breath. I was always the type of person who never went to the doctor unless I absolutely had to and never imagined I would end up on oxygen and all these medications.
My COPD made life even more challenging because I also had serious heart problems. Any COPD exasperation puts stress on the heart. My husband and I were helping raise two grandsons and I worked as a school bus driver. Trying to start the bus in the colder months was so difficult on my breathing that my husband started doing it for me. Eventually I had to leave my job because I didn’t feel it was safe for the kids. I didn’t want to take any chances of something happening to me while I was driving them. During Red Ribbon Week, I visited each classroom of grades 1–6 to talk about smoking and what it can do to your body. I even took my respiratory physical therapist with me. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I feel it is so important to show kids how smoking will affect you. If we helped one kid make the choice not to smoke, it was worth it.
COPD impacts all aspects of life including the ability to go places. At Stage 4, I was retaining CO2 and they said not to leave the house without my portable ventilator and a walker. I had to pick and choose where I went because it was challenging to carry that tank around. I would run out of breath just talking on the phone. It affects you in more ways than you think, including intimacy with my husband, who is 12 years younger.
I had been trying to get on the list for a lung transplant and was led to believe that after having testing and losing the required weight, that I would be good to go. But after two years, I felt like they were just dragging it out. It was incredibly frustrating.
I decided I needed a new pulmonologist and it was actually my heart doctor, Dr. John Schrader, who referred me to Dr. Yasir Usman who talked to me about the lung valve option. I wanted to get it right there on the spot. But, of course, he sent me for the testing and, fortunately, I was approved for the procedure.
Life After Zephyr Valves:
Dr. Houssein Youness placed my valves. The procedure went well but I did have a pneumothorax which Dr. Youness had explained could be a possible side effect. The staff was great and efficiently addressed the pneumothorax.
I noticed a difference in my breathing while still in the hospital. I wasn’t struggling as much, and they had turned my oxygen down to a 2 and I didn’t even notice it until they told me.
I had a physical therapist come to my house two to three days a week. I learned so much, like how to practice diaphragmatic breathing and all the exercises I can do at home. It doesn’t matter whether you have exercise machines or not. It’s just as effective to use my own stairs. The important thing is to keep moving. As the saying goes, you can either “use it or lose it.” I do everything I can to help with progress and build myself up. I created a game for myself. While watching TV, I make myself sit up straight and I work my arms and legs. Then on commercials, I get up and move.
Recently, my family had COVID. I did not get it but did have a sinus infection. Over the years, when I got sick it would escalate and even end up with me hospitalized with pneumonia. This time I made it through with just an antibiotic and no trip to the hospital.
The valves have made a big difference for me. I still have my good days and bad days, but nothing like it used to be. We are getting out so much more, and not just to visit the doctor anymore. We’ve been able to go to the casino and to my granddaughter’s softball games. This past year, we went on vacation for the first time in a long time. We spent a week down at the Gulf and even took family with us. I would not have attempted that trip before having my Zephyr Valves.
Even though I had a pneumothorax and I still use oxygen, I would get the Zephyr Valves again in a heartbeat. I am breathing so much better. I’m home alone quite a bit and it’s comforting to know I can walk to the kitchen and get a coffee and I’m okay. I use a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen and heart rate. I know to check it and rest when necessary. It gives me peace of mind.
My advice to other people is to not be afraid to explore new things. Listen to your doctor and do research on your own. If you’re at Stage 4, what do you have to lose? Before valves, I had lung function tests as low as 17.5%. My last lung function test was at 26%. I also want to tell people who are suffering from COPD that there is so much out there that insurance will pay for, like physical therapy. You have to be proactive in doing anything you can to make yourself stronger.
My husband is retired from the military and he is my rock. We’ve been married 31 years. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my family. We have four kids, eight grandkids, and just welcomed our first great grandchild. I’m only 71 years old and I want to watch my great grandchild grow up.
Results may vary.
Complications of the Zephyr Endobronchial Valve treatment can include but are not limited to pneumothorax, worsening of COPD symptoms, hemoptysis, pneumonia, dyspnea and, in rare cases, death.