Two years after having Zephyr Valves, she is still going strong, now able to do electric slide with her daughters.
Age at Treatment: 61
Hospital: Froedtert Memorial Hospital/Medical College of Wisconsin
Date of Procedure: August 2020
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
I was diagnosed with COPD in 2002, but it took me seven years to quit smoking. I tried everything! What finally did it was a coughing fit so severe that I didn’t think I’d catch my breath and come out of it. I put my faith in God and quit that day. I succeeded by sheer determination and great support from my husband and kids. But even though I quit smoking, I did not see a lot of improvement. I was having trouble breathing and it just got worse and worse every year. In 2012 I saw a pulmonologist for the first time, and he gave me five years to live.
I was a carpenter, and we owned our own business. After having children, I worked at home and ran the office. As my emphysema worsened, I couldn’t walk from the house to the mailbox without having to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. A year prior to receiving valves, I was in bad shape. I went on oxygen when sleeping because my stats would drop to 81 during the night. Shortly after, I was on oxygen full time. I hated it. It was so clumsy and awkward carrying that concentrator around, but I needed it 24/7, even if I was just working in the yard.
Eventually, I couldn’t drive or even vacuum which was very sad. My disease seemed to be progressing faster and our family life suffered for it. I couldn’t do a lot with my kids anymore, like Girl Scout activities, riding 4-wheelers, and going to Florida on vacation. I couldn’t go outside in the humidity. Any activity would stop me in my tracks. Eventually I couldn’t do anything and that left me feeling guilty and depressed. I felt like an invalid, always needing someone to go get stuff.
Fortunately for me, it was my pulmonologist who told me what great things they were doing at Froedtert, specifically the valve program there. We talked about that being an option for me. I was willing to try anything that would help me breathe better. I went there for testing and was approved to get Zephyr Valves.
Life After Zephyr Valves:
I had the procedure with no complications. It took a couple of days for me to notice a difference. I think I had been on edge, scared to breathe. Then I relaxed a little and thought, “I think I can breathe better.” I went home but remained on oxygen.
The difference in my breathing really became apparent shortly after my procedure. My husband was in the yard, and I needed to get something to him quickly, so I ran. When I reached him, I was laughing and saying, “I ran and I’m ok!” I began noticing that my oxygen levels were not dipping when active, so I started to forgo my oxygen.
Three weeks after having my valves, I had my checkup and my doctor did a CT, PFT, and a walk test. I left the pulmonologist’s office that day without my oxygen. I didn’t need it anymore!
I still use my inhalers on the same dose as before valves, but we may try lowering one of them. Now my oxygen level is 96 consistently and I can walk 5x further than I could before having valves. I have had a checkup with the doctor every six months. My FEV1 improved from 37% to 56% and my 6MWD went from 320m to 440m.
My kids noticed that I “sound like my old self.” My voice is a lot stronger, and I am back to singing in the choir and singing karaoke. I don’t even need to take a break! It’s amazing. I am not afraid of going places and I don’t use my handicap sign anymore.
The valves gave me my life back. I have three grandkids aged three, six, and eight years old. I can babysit them full time. We go to the zoo, swim in the pool, and they have a sleepover every week. Recently I played kickball with them, and I was all good! My daughters and I have a tradition of doing the electric slide at every wedding we attend. In July, I attended one and I stayed out on that dance floor the whole time with my daughters.
When I left my last appointment, I said to everyone in the waiting room, “If any of you are here for severe COPD/emphysema and have the option, get valves…don’t put it off. At least entertain the option. My whole life — my mental health and the lives of my family, all changed for the better.”