Texas City, TX
Grandma of 20 and great-grandma of 8 who enjoys exercising, writing poetry, and spending time with her big family!
Age at Treatment: 63
Doctor: Dr. Shawn Nishi
Hospital: University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston
Date of Procedure: August 2019
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
I’d always been a high energy person. For over 25 years I was an Administrative Specialist for the medical science division of a large University. We managed the program for bodies donated to science and research. I was so passionate about my job, and for many years I was president of the University’s Administrative Professionals Association. My life was full. I raised 5 wonderful children on my own. I volunteered at the Women’s Resource Crisis Center and helped to oversee the University’s Earth Day activities. Let’s just say I was one busy lady before emphysema/COPD came along.
In September 2018, I caught a cold and it just spiraled. I ended up being hospitalized and sent home with oxygen. I remember thinking “I don’t need that. I’m not an old lady!” But the following winter, I was hospitalized several more times and on March 8, 2019, I was sent home with oxygen again, but this time I needed it 24/7.
My life went from 60 to 0 very quickly because of this awful disease. I had to retire on disability from a job I loved. I was stuck at home attached to a giant oxygen hose. My friends and coworkers were shocked. They would say “no way, not Florence” because I had always been so involved in life. I felt like I was losing my identity. It was such a difficult time.
I was in the hospital with an exacerbation when I first met Dr. Nishi’s nurse, Gisele, and heard about the Zephyr Valves. Gisele looked just like an aunt of mine and I felt so comfortable with the way she explained the valve procedure to me. Just a few days later my aunt, the same one whom Gisele reminded me of, called out of the blue to tell me she had a dream about my dad who had passed many years ago. She said she was supposed to tell me I’d be okay and there was a new path for me in life. I know everyone doesn’t believe in signs, but I knew this was a sign I was meant to try this.
At first, my insurance denied the procedure, but Dr. Nishi’s office fought for me. I went to pulmonary rehab while they appealed the insurance denial. The rehab taught me how to move slower but do more. It really prepared me to be ready for the procedure when the insurance approval came through.
Life After Zephyr Valves:
Dr. Nishi put five Zephyr Valves in the diseased section of my lung. I noticed a difference right away in the hospital. It felt like I could breathe fully again for the first time in years. I did develop a pneumothorax, which I was told might happen, but the staff were great taking care of me. I had a chest tube to resolve the pneumothorax and stayed an extra couple of days in the hospital. But even though I had that complication, I feel so much better now. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
It’s been a few months since I had the procedure and I am feeling better each day. I no longer need oxygen during the day and soon will have the test to see if I even need it at night. I feel so free not having to be attached to that hose anymore.
The valves reduce hyperinflation (trapped in the diseased lung) so I no longer have that pressure on my diaphragm and stomach. I am eating better and more. I can wear a bra all day again. These little things make a huge difference and I just feel more normal again.
I feel strongly that part of my new path in life is to help spread the word about the Zephyr Valves so other sufferers can learn about this option and have hope. I will be attending local breathing club meetings and sharing my story online.
Now that I am feeling better, I have so much life to live. I am back participating in my administrative professionals’ group, socializing, and writing poetry. I have a goal to write a poem for all the scriptures in the bible and I am planning to do some exercise videos for people with COPD.