Grandma who loves water sports and spending time with her family
Age at Treatment: 62
Doctor: Dr. Sebastian Fernandez-Bussy
Hospital: Mayo Clinic Florida
Date of Procedure: October 2019
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
Before COPD/emphysema I was always on the go. Living in Florida, I grew up on the water and love surfing and scuba diving. In my career I was a domestic violence counselor, Juvenile Justice Resident Officer, and a property manager. I was also a cheerleading coach and gymnastics instructor. Needless to say, I kept very busy!
About 10 years ago I had to call 911 because I couldn’t breathe. I was put on a ventilator and in an induced coma. They thought it was an allergic reaction, but it was my lungs. I had a new grandbaby that was only 15 days old when that happened. To think of all I almost missed.
Once I was diagnosed with COPD/emphysema, I tried to go on living life, but I kept getting sick. I was on prednisone several times a year. I did go to a pulmonologist, but I didn’t like what he had to say. He told me all the things I couldn’t do, and I was shocked when he recommended I get on the lung transplant list.
Five years ago, on a trip to Hawaii, I realized I was really struggling with all the walking. It wasn’t too long after that just walking to the car had me winded. About four years ago they put me on oxygen. I was a “closet user.” When everyone else took a lunch break, I’d go in the car and drive around to use my oxygen where no one could see. I didn’t even want to tell my kids!
My big life started to shrink. I used to teach diving and swimming lessons, but it got to the point where I couldn’t even clean my pool anymore. Some days I didn’t even care if I ate. This disease was taking a physical and mental toll on me.
I still had some fight in me though. I have four biological grandkids and five step grandkids, and for some of them I am the only living grandparent. I wanted to be there for them. After seeing a post about the Zephyr Valves on Facebook, I asked my doctor about them. Well, he didn’t know too much but said the procedure wouldn’t work for me because my lungs were already too far gone. I told him we’d have to agree to disagree, and I went to the Mayo Clinic where the valves were offered.
At Mayo, Dr. Bussy explained the guidelines and answered all my questions. After all the testing, they called to say I qualified….and boy was that a reason to celebrate!
Life After Zephyr Valves:
I was lucky because my insurance, United Healthcare, approved the procedure right away. The procedure went smoothly, and I felt the impact immediately. When I woke up from the procedure it felt like an elephant had been taken off my chest.
Since having the valves, I feel wonderful and I am happy to be back on the go. In December, just two months after my valves, I was able to walk up and down an entire street without oxygen to look at the Christmas lights with my grandkids. I still have the oxygen in the car, but I don’t need it. I know I am not cured, and I am still cautious to avoid anywhere there is smoke, but I am doing so much better it’s remarkable!
I am looking forward to getting back in the water again. I’ve been cleared to scuba dive again, but I am most excited to be able to swim with my grandkids this summer. I am so blessed with a big loving family and I am just grateful to be feeling well again so we can enjoy our time together.
I want to share my story because there are a lot of people who can benefit from these valves. For many of us, it’s the difference between living and just surviving.