Husband, father, and grandfather who enjoys gardening, biking, and the great outdoors!
Age at Treatment: 65
Doctor: Dr. Rick Balestra
Hospital: Providence Hospital, Portland
Date of Procedure: May 2020
Insurance: Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
I was diagnosed with COPD about 15 years ago. After my dad passed away from Alpha-1 emphysema, I was tested and was negative for Alpha-1, but still had COPD and early stage emphysema at that point. I smoked for 30 years and was finally able to quit eight years ago.
My COPD has had a huge downhill impact on our lifestyle. Essentially, I went from being an active outdoor person, to being stuck at home. We had a house on Lake Michigan and loved to kayak, camp, and bike. I hunted for 30 years, spending the whole day in the woods. As the disease progressed, I couldn’t do much anymore. Life became very limited. I even had to retire early from my career as a general manager.
My doctor put me on Spiriva® and Advair®550, and in the early years the medication helped to manage it. As time went on the medications were less effective, and I had several ER trips because my oxygen levels dropped. I ended up with pneumonia twice and had to be put on steroids and oxygen. As the disease progressed, I needed oxygen regularly, and eventually I couldn’t get by without it. I was on four liters of oxygen 24/7 for two years.
I was seeing a holistic doctor (who was also my neighbor). She had read an article about Zephyr Valves and she recommended I look into it. My regular pulmonary doctor did not agree that the valves were an option for me, so I called Henry Ford directly, had all the testing done, and qualified. I’m on social media and I always tell others with this disease, “don’t take what your current doctor says…you have to see someone who does the valves to be properly evaluated.” It makes me crazy that my treating doctors didn’t bring this to my attention and maybe I suffered longer than I had to.
Then came the battle with insurance. We really had to fight for coverage with Anthem Blue Cross. The Pulmonx Reimbursement Team stepped in and appealed again and again for me. They did not give up on me and fought for me all the way to the Federal Appeals Court. It took eight months, but I got my valves.
Life After Zephyr Valves:
I was scheduled for April 8th. We had already bought a house in Portland, Oregon where we were moving to be closer to my five-year-old granddaughter. I was nervous about COVID because Michigan was really getting bad, so we decided to make the move to Oregon sooner rather than later. I did a few tele-health visits, and then in May I had the procedure in Portland. The hospital had a great protocol regarding COVID. The COVID unit was on another side of the hospital and had only eight patients.
The procedure went well and frankly was much easier than the huge surgery I had been preparing for before the valves were an option. When your only other options are major surgeries, having the valves done just via a bronchoscopy, it was a no brainer in my mind. I felt the difference immediately in the hospital and was on less oxygen right away.
My life has changed quite a bit in a short period of time. We’ve been hiking in Washington. We were at the coast over the weekend, walking up hilly roads. We walk the neighborhood all the time and it is no problem, even when the weather is hot. I only turn my oxygen on for sleeping now.
My wife and son are so happy. When we first moved here, they would hike without me. Now we can do what we want, when we want. I am back to living life. We don’t eat meat and grow all our own food. Now I work in my garden five to six hours a day.
About six weeks after having my Zephyr valve, I had my “ah-ha” moment and knew that this worked for me when I was able to play badminton in the yard with my granddaughter on the Fourth of July without oxygen.