…Looking forward to traveling the country to visit all her grandkids!
Age at Treatment: 62
Doctor: Dr. Ali Saeed
Hospital: St. Joseph’s Hospital
Date of Procedure: June 2020
Insurance: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
About five years ago, I had just quit smoking, but began having persistent symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing after walking, and difficulty with stairs. A pulmonary function test confirmed I had Stage 3 COPD/emphysema.
Before emphysema, I lived what I call a ‘normal life.’ I went places with friends, enjoyed day trips, and traveled. Skiing was my favorite hobby and passion, but my disease progressed quickly and just a couple of years after diagnosis, I could no longer ski. Within a few years I needed help with even basic everyday things like grocery shopping, making the bed, and taking a shower. I was afraid to live alone and had to move in with my sister and her husband.
At first I managed with maintenance and rescue inhalers, but eventually needed the oxygen. I was up to 4 liters 24/7. I loved my job as an accountant for the local church, but it was challenging at work. I had my concentrator under my desk with a 20-foot hose so I could move around the office and reach the breakroom. When I had to use the restroom, though, I would have to switch to the portable. I was tied to that concentrator and it was very depressing. Some people get attached to it psychologically, but most of us want to do anything to get off it.
My pulmonologist, Dr. Teresa Heatly, first mentioned the Zephyr Valves to me because she thought I might be a candidate. I really trust her, and I was definitely interested in anything that might help. I researched it online and joined the ‘Lung Valves for Friends’ Facebook group where I was able to get very honest feedback based on others’ experience with the valves. Once I made the decision, I was fortunate because my Insurance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, approved it right away.
Life After Zephyr Valves:
I had three valves put in the lower lobe of my left lung. The procedure went very smoothly with no complications. I did not even have a sore throat which can happen with a bronchoscopy. I stayed the three days for monitoring. I got to know the nurses and respiratory therapists who went above and beyond in terms of my care. I stayed on oxygen while in the hospital, but the day after I came home, I started weaning off and by the third day home I was off of it completely.
The doctor says my lobe has not yet fully deflated, but my PFT shows less air is being trapped. I know my valves have worked, though, because I am breathing better already. Dr. Saeed will do a bronchoscopy soon, but I expect it could be up to a year for deflation to complete.
Even if I don’t improve any more than where I am now, it was totally worth it. I am back in my office working and not tied to an oxygen hose. Everyday tasks are easier. I can help with the cooking, make my own bed, and take a hot shower without the steam affecting my breathing. I’m even going to be helping Dr. Saeed spread the word about this treatment when he starts a board to talk to patients in Arizona about the valves.
I have two daughters and six grandchildren ranging from age 5 to 25 who live all over. I haven’t seen anybody in quite some time due to this disease and I am ready to put my hands on those kids again. I just booked a trip to New York to visit my oldest daughter because now that I don’t need oxygen, I can get on a plane! This procedure has been such a gift to me!
My advice to others is to do the research and learn about the benefits and risks. Go on ‘Lung Valves for Friends’ (Facebook group) and read honest opinions from others. Be informed and then go for it! I would do it again in a heartbeat!