Special Education Teacher, Runner and Newlywed
"My advice to other patients that are trying to get BT would be to keep fighting. It's worth it."
My Life Prior to BT:
I was born with severe asthma but I wasn't officially diagnosed until I was two. Growing up, I had to be prepared all the time. If it was windy outside, I couldn't go outside. We lived in San Diego and when the Santa Anna winds came, I had to stay indoors. I loved to be active but every sport that I played, I would hit a frustration level because my asthma would hold me back.
We always had to be right on top of the medications too. Growing up we tried every new asthma drug that came out. I had a nebulizer at home and at school. This continued as I grew older. At one point as an adult I remember being on 22 different medications. Then we started injections because when I'd get really sick the oral steroids wouldn't work so we had to go to injections and IV steroids. I struggled with all the side effects of the medications especially the steroids; the weight gain, the puffy face, the false sense of energy, the sleep issues.
My asthma impacted my everyday world growing up. I can remember having such a severe attack one vacation that I spent the whole week in bed instead of enjoying time with my family. I can remember being out on my bike and I'd be far away from family and my asthma would flare up and I would have to walk all the way home not being able to breath.
One time in college, I rode my bike too fast trying to get to a midterm exam. When I got to school, I couldn't breathe. I ended up collapsing in the hallway and they called campus security and then 911. I was carted off to the hospital and I missed the midterm just because I probably rode my bike too fast and I couldn't get it to counteract.
It was tough socially. When I first met people, I didn't want to scare them with 'I have a nebulizer that I carry around all the time and I have a bag full of drugs and if this happens you need to do this, if this happens you need to do this,' so I would just say 'Oh, I have asthma'. Sometimes people would respond that they knew someone with asthma but it was hard to explain that my asthma was potentially life threatening at any moment.
I went to the ER all the time. They knew me by name because I was there at least once a month. I wish they had frequent flyer mileage, because I would've had tons of miles!
I am a teacher and was always conscious of having a plan for someone to take over for me if I had an attack. I didn't want to scare my students or collapse in front of them. I am a deaf educator so I use sign language which involves using your hands and facial expressions. But when you have asthma and don't have it well under control, it takes a lot more energy to sign.
I first heard about BT from my doctor. He had already told me he thought I might die from my asthma. I was really out of other options at that point. I was taking my medications and my asthma was still not well controlled. I had to battle insurance for a few years but with the support of several doctors, I was finally able to get BT. My advice to other patients that are trying to get BT would be to keep fighting. It's worth it.
My Life Today
I felt rough for about a week after each procedure but each day got better. It was about a month or so after the third procedure that I started to notice the differences. I could walk from the parking lot of the school to my classroom or my office, even carrying stuff that weighed me down. I could just walk in and start my day.
I've had no hospitalizations or ambulance rides and I've not needed a steroid burst for a severe flare up since BT. I did a mini cost analysis and I estimated that in just one year, I have saved my insurance company at least $60,000.
I would say for me, BT was life-changing. My quality of life has skyrocketed. I'm more active. I've done a Tough Mudder race in Tahoe and the elevation wasn't even an issue.
Before BT, my life revolved around my severe asthma, asthma medications, questioning wherever I was going, always being prepared, micromanaging the disease that could potentially take my life. Post BT, I sometimes forget that I have asthma! Since BT, my bucket list has grown and I've started checking off things like sky diving!
Now that I've had BT, I can give more to my students too. They get to see me more often because now I'm not missing work as much. I have more energy to give to them. These are special education students and now I can be an inspiration to them and show them that you should never give up because something could be out there that could change your life and then ultimately change the lives of others. I am now impacting all these little lives that are in front of me by being able to breathe and be there and be present.
Before BT I was trying to manage a life and stay alive, now I actually get to live life!
Results from case studies are not necessarily predictive of results in other cases. Results in other cases may vary.
Brief Statement of Relevant Indications for Use, Contraindications, Warnings, and Adverse Events: The Alair™ Bronchial Thermoplasty System is indicated for the treatment of severe persistent asthma in patients 18 years and older whose asthma is not well controlled with inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta-agonists. The Alair System is not for use in patients with an active implantable electronic device or known sensitivity to medications used in bronchoscopy. Previously treated airways of the lung should not be retreated with the Alair System. Patients should be stable and suitable to undergo bronchoscopy. The most common side effect of BT is an expected transient increase in the frequency and worsening of respiratory-related symptoms. ENDO-551804-AA
As with any procedure, there are risks, and individual results may vary. The most common adverse event of BT is a temporary worsening of respiratory-related symptoms. These events typically occur within one day of the BT procedure and usually resolve within a week with standard care. There is a small risk (3.4% per procedure) that symptoms may require hospitalization.1
- Castro M, et al, for the AIR2 Trial Study Group. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010;181:116-124.