Mom who loves traveling with her husband and spending time with her daughters.
Age at Treatment: 57
Doctor: Dr. Hiram Rivas, University of Louisville, KY
Date of Procedure: September 2015
Life Before Zephyr® Valves:
Life before emphysema and COPD was wonderful. I raised two great daughters, loved my work, and enjoyed traveling with my husband. We went to the Gulf Shores every year, but everything changed when I got sick with emphysema/COPD. I was first diagnosed in 2009 by my family doctor. I used inhalers right away, but I put off the oxygen as long as I could.
Oxygen felt like such a big step, but eventually I had no choice. It was my daughter’s nursing school graduation, and I was determined to go. We borrowed a wheelchair from church and brought the oxygen tank out. The only issue was I put it on the wrong setting and ended up running out at the graduation. Well, if you are going to have a medical issue, a graduation full of new nurses is not the worst place.
My emphysema progressed quickly and by 2012 I was very sick. I was approved for disability right away which is rare in Kentucky, but my records showed how sick I was. I was referred to the transplant center and was so overwhelmed. The transplant list is a big commitment. Endless testing, bloodwork, rehabilitation, and if you don’t comply, you don’t stay on the list. I did this for two years. I spoke with a woman who had a transplant, and she explained what I could expect. However, when I asked her if she would do it over again, she said no. I also knew a nurse who had the lung transplant and only lived for three additional years. I was frightened, but at that point, that was my only real option.
Life was very difficult. Just getting out of bed and dressed would take all the stamina I had. It was hard to leave the house. I am so blessed to have such a great guy who stood by me through all this. My husband had to do everything because I could no longer cook or do housework. It was a very depressing time. Life was going by, and I could not participate anymore.
Then my doctor mentioned the Zephyr Valve treatment. I was unsure at first, but once I met with the team doing the clinical trial, I felt that I should try this because it was definitely a better option than a major organ transplant.
Life After Zephyr® Valves:
Having the Zephyr Valves was a fantastic decision for me and a real turning point in managing this awful illness.
The procedure went very smoothly. I experienced no pain at all. I didn’t even have a sore throat. I did stay in the hospital for observation for several days, but that was expected. I felt fine and was sitting up playing cards and watching movies.
For me, the results were not immediate. I think my expectations were too high. I thought I would be cured, but I still needed my daily medications. That said, within a month or so I could see a very big difference. Everyday tasks became manageable again. I started to cook and straighten up the house.
Now it’s been three years and I am still doing great. My lung function numbers are the same as they were seven years ago, as if the disease has not progressed. I still use my oxygen, but I am back in the land of the living now. I cook, clean, and socialize again. My husband and I go out on dates. I go shopping with my girls. I am so grateful to be able to live my life on my terms again.
I want to set realistic expectations. This was not a cure, but it was life-changing. It just improved my quality of life so much. I feel like I won the lottery!