An artist who is looking forward to getting back to art classes and museum visits.
Age at Treatment: 72
Hospital: AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Medical Center Elk Grove Village
Date of Procedure: February 2020
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
Like many people with emphysema, I had always been an active person before the disease started slowing me down. I was a runner and also did long distance biking. I’m retired now but in my career years as a CPA and CFO, I worked in a nursing facility and was always running around. I’d been a smoker for a long time but was already down to one or two cigarettes a day, trying to quit, when my pulmonologist diagnosed me with emphysema in June of 2014. That was it. I quit for good that day.
I was no stranger to the symptoms of this disease. My husband also suffers from COPD and my father died of emphysema. My dad had struggled with excessive coughing, but in the early years of my diagnosis I only had shortness of breath. It did cause me a great deal of anxiety. I did a lot of research online because I had a hard time understanding why my symptoms were so different from my dad’s. I wondered if it was my heart, but it was definitely my lungs.
To combat the symptoms, I tried various inhalers, though none of them worked that great for me. I only used oxygen sometimes, but I did need it to exercise or recover from a cold.
The disease was slowly wearing me down. I couldn’t walk very far anymore. I’m an artist and I love to go to the Art Institute in Chicago, but it’s quite large and requires a lot of walking — I just couldn’t do it anymore. One of my studio art classes became difficult to attend because I had to park so far away. It was getting to the point where I was going to have to give that up too and the thought of that was heartbreaking.
I was online one day and the link to the Zephyr Valve page popped up. I called my doctor immediately and he gave me a referral to Dr. Desai. I went to see him in December and had the procedure two months later. There was no hesitation because I figured I had to try it, especially with it being minimally invasive.
Life After Zephyr Valves:
The procedure went smoothly, and I stayed in the hospital for the required three days. It was actually a wonderful experience. No pain, no complications. The staff and doctors were so good to me. I brought some books to keep me busy. It was a very positive experience.
I noticed a small improvement in my breathing in the first few days. Then about a month later, I noticed I could carry on a conversation better. My sister and brother-in-law even remarked on how I was talking so much easier.
It’s been a few months and I am feeling great. I’m back to exercising. Before the COVID-19 quarantine, my husband and I would go to the gym and work out for an hour. Now I use the treadmill at home seven days a week.
I can still get short of breath, but not as often. I would estimate feeling 30% less short of breath than before the valves. For instance, when I’m cleaning, I may get short of breath, but it’s different, more normal like when I was younger and would be winded after running.
I do feel less anxiety now as well. I don’t like wearing a mask, though I know it is necessary right now. It just reminds me of when I couldn’t breathe.
You don’t realize how much the disease has been limiting your life until you feel better. I am not counting my days anymore. I’m looking forward to getting back to my studio art classes and going back to the art museums in the city.
Now that I can breathe easier, my husband and I will be back to enjoying life and taking the long walks that we love.