Mom who loves the outdoors and traveling
Age at Treatment: 54
Hospital: Banner Medical Center, Phoenix
Date of Procedure: September 2018
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
I had a very full life before COPD and emphysema. I was a real outdoors person. I loved to snow ski, camp, and fish. I was raised in Idaho in a mining family and we spent most of our time outside. We’d go to the creek and make damns and tree swings or ride mini-bikes and snow mobiles.
Growing up in a mining town had its benefits but it also meant I went to school very close to the refineries. The smoke would fill the playground so bad sometimes we couldn’t go out for recess. I was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema in 2008 at age 44. The doctors said that even if I had smoked a pack a day for my entire life, my lungs wouldn’t have been so bad at such a young age if I hadn’t been exposed to the smoke from the refineries as a child.
I was living in Nevada with its harsh winters. I kept getting bronchitis and that lead to my diagnosis. By 2010 my breathing really started to get difficult. Just going out into the cold air in the morning to get to work made my breathing difficult. In 2011 I moved to Arizona to get away from cold. It was a tough decision because my dear husband had to stay in Nevada for work, but my lungs could not tolerate that cold air anymore.
In the Fall of 2015 my primary care doctor finally sent me to a pulmonologist and I found out I was in the end stages of COPD/emphysema. They said I would be lucky to get 5 more years. It felt like my life was falling apart. I have full custody of my two granddaughters. I’m mom to them and at this point the oldest was just in preschool, but my outlook was not good. By 2016 I had to start wearing oxygen just to be able to function. My pulmonologist suggested I go on the transplant list, but I wasn’t ready for all that. My situation went from bad to devastating quickly. I couldn’t take care of my little girls. I felt like I was losing my identity. I couldn’t clean the house or cook. I couldn’t volunteer at the school. Everything that was dear to me was getting taken by this disease. I became very depressed. It is not easy knowing you are dying and worrying about who will raise your kids when you are gone.
At one of my appointments in the summer of 2018 my doctor said he would see me again in two months and I told him I didn’t know if I would make it that long. That’s when he sent me to Dr. Sue to discuss the Zephyr Valve treatment. Within a week Dr. Sue scheduled my procedure.
Life After Zephyr® Valves:
Having the Zephyr Valves was a game changer for me. The results were instant. As soon as I woke up from the procedure I could take a deep breath. In recovery I said, “I can breathe and it’s such a beautiful thing.” I was so happy, I couldn’t stop smiling. I think I had perma-grin for the whole first week after the procedure!
The procedure went very smooth for me. I was sitting up playing games on my phone the day after the procedure and I just wanted to get home and take a nice hot shower.
It’s been over a month now and I am breathing so much better and really back to living my life. I took my girls to the fair and didn’t have to bring my oxygen. I can do all the little things you take for granted until you’re sick like straighten up the house and help the kids with homework.
Getting the Zephyr Valves was so much easier than getting a lung transplant. I’m just so grateful this was FDA approved in time for me. Now that I am feeling better I am busy creating my new bucket list. I am taking my girls to Sea World and my husband bought an 8-room camping tent so we can all go on a camping and fishing trip. I have my life back!
For the first time in over 2 years, I am not worried about who will raise my girls. I am not cured, but this treatment gave me the most precious thing I needed … time!