Wife and mom who loves to travel and watch her daughter’s bowling tournaments
Age at Treatment: 56
Doctor: Dr. Hiram Rivas Perez, University of Louisville
Date of Procedure: January 2017
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
Before emphysema, I led a busy, active life. I worked in accounting, raised two kids, and loved to travel with my husband. We would rent a houseboat every year on the lake with a big group of friends.
I was diagnosed with emphysema/COPD at age 46 during a screening for an autoimmune disease. Over the years I used several medications to help control the symptoms including Spiriva™, Advair™, Humira™, prednisone, methotrexate, and a nebulizer. I was finally able to quit smoking for good in 2012 but the disease had begun to really impact my life. From 2008 to 2014 I was in the hospital every year. I had to go on disability. In 2014 I was hospitalized three times and during one of those episodes I started turning blue and scared my poor husband to death! I was not intubated but was put on a trilogy bipap ventilator machine. These were very frightening times for me and my family.
Over the years, the most basic tasks became difficult. I used oxygen during the day in order to go anywhere or do basic housework. Even taking a shower was difficult. I lost a lot of weight because I was very down and had no appetite. I was anxious all the time. It is hard to live when you can’t breathe.
It was difficult on my family too. The kids had to see me struggle and be in and out of the hospital. My husband owned a heating company but ultimately had to close it and stay home to take care of me. One of the worst parts of the disease was how it impacted my role as a mom. It was tough to miss the kids’ activities and special moments. When my daughter wanted to go try makeup and do those fun mom and daughter things, it was often my husband who would have to take her.
In 2015 my pulmonary doctor suggested I get on a lung transplant list. I have a friend who had a double lung transplant and the recovery was a grueling process. And, even after going through all that, they only give you an estimate of five years to live. When I was referred to Louisville for the valves, even though it was in the trial phase, I went to talk to them. My husband did a lot of research and the trial team did a great job explaining how it would work so I decided to go for it.
Life After Zephyr® Valves:
Having the Zephyr Valves was life changing for me. I stayed in the hospital for six days but overall the procedure went very smoothly. I know for sure that it was a lot easier than having a lung transplant!
It’s been almost 2 years and I am doing great. I am back to doing housework and I even go to the gym. I bring my oxygen reader and my inhaler in case I need it, but I am not afraid to be active anymore. I feel like I can take care of myself again. The Zephyr Valves allowed me to feel like a normal person again!
Not only am I feeling better, but the stress on my family is much less. My husband is back to work and the kids don’t worry as much. From August to March we travel to all of my daughter’s bowling tournaments. Before I had the valves, I had to pack my oxygen tank and give myself a big pep talk to make it to a tournament. There were always crowds and sometimes it was hard to find a seat. Now I don’t worry about going at all. I don’t even bring oxygen. I can stand if I have too, and I walk to the bathroom with no problem.
I still have emphysema and take daily medications, but I am back to living life again. My goals were to be able to walk around with my husband and take my kids shopping and I can do that now, and more!
I am traveling again. My husband and I went to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina for a car show and stopped in Helen, Georgia on the way to sightsee. Taking that trip was pretty amazing because before the valves, just walking from one room to another in my house was a big effort. I really didn’t think I’d be traveling again, but here I am.
I am sharing my story because I want other emphysema sufferers to have hope and to know that this treatment is available!