Grandpa of nine who loves swimming, taking care of his grandkids, and vacationing on the coast
Age at Treatment: 68
Hospital: Inova Fairfax
Date of Procedure: October 2019
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
Before my diagnosis of COPD, I lived a very full life. I’ve been married for 45 years, raised three kids, and now have nine grandchildren. The grandkids all live close by and are such a big part of our life. I work as a real estate professional specializing in selling new homes for a national builder. In our spare time, my wife and I enjoy our small beach house in Ocean City, MD.
I was very healthy before this disease. Growing up in New England, I loved the ocean and swimming became my sport and passion. I was a New England swimming champion in my junior year of high school, and I coached for many years. I swam almost daily until about five years ago when my lungs just wouldn’t allow me to get in the water anymore.
I smoked for about 30 years, but I had quit five years before my pulmonologist diagnosed me with COPD/emphysema. The first time I used oxygen was back in 2005. I got very sick and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, but that was a misdiagnosis. What I really had was pneumonia. My lungs deteriorated from then on. By 2018, I needed the oxygen full time and for the past 12 months, I didn’t have the lung capacity to support walking, even with oxygen. If I went to the grocery store, I had to use the handicap cart. I couldn’t even make the bed. The simplest tasks were not possible anymore.
This disease robs you of your life. My life became limited in so many ways. I couldn’t swim anymore, and socializing was difficult. It is hard to join in conversation when you are struggling to breathe. You really start feeling like a smaller version of yourself. It truly is depressing.
When my pulmonologist brought up the Zephyr Valves and referred me to Dr. Mahajan. I said, “sign me up!” Dr. Mahajan’s nurse, Nancy, explained the procedure to me and arranged all the testing. I was supposed to have my valves in September, but it was postponed a few weeks because I needed a cardiac clearance.
Life After Zephyr Valves:
The procedure went smoothly though the anesthesia did a number on me. I felt rough for a few days, but other than that, I was the poster child for recovery. Surgery on Monday and rest. Tuesday a walk to the bathroom. Wednesday a walk around the ward. On Thursday I went home. About one week from my procedure, I started to notice breathing improvements but just one week after that I gave up the oxygen during the day.
When you go into pulmonary rehab therapy, they ask you what your goals are. My goal was to swim again and have enough oxygen to not be afraid to get in the pool. After the valves and nine weeks in therapy I was jogging my 6-minute walk without oxygen. Then on New Year’s Eve, two months after my valves, I went swimming for the first time in five years and it was amazing!
Since I have had the valves, the little things have become the big things. I can carry the groceries and I can take my grandbabies to lunch at their favorite place. I am focusing on my career too. Talking to potential home buyers and doing house tours is much easier now that I am breathing better.
It’s joyful, really. I’m not afraid to do things anymore. Before I was afraid to go out because I couldn’t walk that far, and I didn’t want to embarrass my friends by making them wait for me. Now, I’m leading the pack! I swim two days a week and go to the gym two days a week. My grandkids are so happy to see Grampy come in the house without panting. Yesterday I took them to the movies, first time in five years!
My story about this procedure tells people what life can be even with COPD. It really brought me back. I am a walking Christmas present. This far exceeded my expectations!