Grand Rapids, MI
Great aunt to 21 nieces and nephews, who loves to go to their sporting events and celebrations!
Age at Treatment: 69
Doctor: Dr. Gustavo Cumbo-Nacheli
Hospital: Spectrum Butterworth Hospital
Date of Procedure: March 2019
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
Before emphysema, I led an active life – bike riding, travelling, quilting, reading, boating! I grew up boating and camping and my family still boats often on Lake Michigan.
There were symptoms of breathing issues over the years, but by the time I saw a pulmonologist at age 54, I was told I had severe COPD/emphysema. Just two years later I was put on disability.
It leveled off a bit with medications. That was likely because I wasn’t working and had more control over my day. I could rest if I needed it.
In May of 2014, my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. He passed away in November 2017. Then we had to move my mom into assisted living and she passed in early 2018. I was the executor of the estate. During those very trying years, my disease worsened. My oxygen use ramped up and it got to the point where I couldn’t do anything without it.
The things I loved doing, like boating and social activities, became so limited. Even if I went to a social event, I didn’t enjoy it as much. Everything was such a big effort and I’d have to have my oxygen on.
The mental and emotional toll was tough on me, but also affected my family who was very worried. My sisters kept an eye on me, especially after my husband passed away. My one sister told me I should get Apple Watch, which I did, because it alerts the medics if I fall.
One day I was watching the news and I saw Dr. Cumbo on TV talking about the procedure. I knew I wanted to try this right away. The next time I saw my pulmonologist she did a CT scan and sent it to Dr. Cumbo. I needed something and this was so much less invasive than surgery. I’d been waiting for years for something like this to come along.
Life After Zephyr Valves:
I was the second patient in the State of Michigan to receive the treatment! The procedure went very smoothly. About one month out, a CT scan showed that one valve had shifted, so they fixed that and put one more in.
It took a little bit of time to notice the difference but now the improvements are amazing! Simple things you take for granted like taking a shower and drying off without struggling to breathe. I can make the bed without stopping to rest now!
I still go to pulmonary rehab twice a week. I started going in 2002 and it is so important. Since having the valves I’ve decreased my O2 from 3 liters to 2 liters and increased my speed from 1.1 to 1.7 on the treadmill. My rehab nurses say they can really see the difference this has made for me.
I would tell other patients that it is important to pace yourself. In May I said “I feel better” and over-did it. But now I am venturing out a little bit more. I go to the grocery without my O2. I do a little weeding in the garden. I am doing more little things but they are a big deal because they are things I wasn’t able to do just a few months ago.
I have a positive attitude and look at what I can do now, not focus on what I can’t do. I recently went to the West Michigan White Caps baseball games with my 5-year old great nephew. It was a really big thing for me to go and I wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t have the valves.
I’ve set some great goals for myself this year. My great nephew plays football for the Catholic Central Cougars. This year I am hoping that I can walk over and sit on our team’s bleachers (instead of the visiting team side which I had to do before the valves because it was a shorter walk). I would like to get up to 2.5 on the treadmill. I’d also like to do more travelling and go out West.
If I didn’t happen to see that news story, I would not have known about this procedure so I am happy to share my story so others can be aware of this. In fact, two people that I go to rehab with are now looking into it too!