Retired Band Director, Mom, and proud Grandma!
"Severe asthma is no longer running my day. It used to be who I was and now I sometimes forget I even have it!"
My Life Prior to BT:
I’ve had severe asthma all my life. I was diagnosed around 18 months old. There were years that were so bad that the doctors would make house calls to come and give me adrenaline. In my twenties and thirties it was pretty manageable. I would have flare-ups a few times a year but it was controlled. In my forties and fifties, my asthma episodes started to become more difficult to control.
I had both allergy and non-allergy triggers. I have very severe allergies, for example when it came to cats, I didn’t even have to see the cat; if I was in the house with one, I would have an attack. We tried many medications including Xolair™, Singulair™, Xyzal™, Symbicort™, Ventolin™, Xoponex™ and of course prednisone along with many different inhalers. I didn’t go to the ER too many times. I’ve had this all my life and I knew my limitations. I would do breathing treatments to get through bad attacks. Had my child had the same type of attacks, we would have gone to the ER more often.
The last two years before I had BT, my severe asthma really took a turn for the worse. I was a band director at a large high school and we had a big hail storm that caused damage to the school. Mold accumulated in the building in which I was teaching which caused me to get sicker and sicker. At one point I ended up in the hospital for 10 days.
It impacted my life in so many ways. I ran out of sick leave at work and would have to use donated days. I would just try to push through each day as best I could. As a severe asthmatic you have to decide “are you going keep pushing forward and living” and I tried for sure. Sometimes I would do nebulizer treatments right at the band hall. If I didn’t push myself I would have just been lying in bed all day and I didn’t want to give up. I did finally have to go on disability retirement though.
My doctors in McAllen had run out of options for me. We had even done allergy testing and I didn’t even do the shots because they were afraid I would have reactions to them that would set off a bad attack. I went online and researched doctors in Houston and found an Allergist/Rheumatologist. That doctor ran some tests and then sent me to Dr. Kopas because what I really needed was a pulmonologist.
When Dr. Kopas first mentioned BT, I was fully onboard. I was like “yes, let’s do this now.” For insurance purposes, however, we had to go through all the steps to show we’d tried everything else first. I had monthly injections of Xolair™ which didn’t do a thing for me. I was living on prednisone and constant nebulizer treatments. I had to drive 320 miles to see Dr. Kopas at least once a month. It was a struggle for a good year with insurance. They denied it at first but Dr. Kopas fought it with me. She sent letters. Even the school district I worked for started writing letters for my appeals. Finally after a year insurance approved it. This is a big issue and I want to tell everyone to keep fighting those denials.
My Life Today
I did have some hospital stays after each treatment but I would do it again without blinking.
I first noticed a difference several weeks after the third and final procedure. I remember having my first wheeze free days. It’s been great ever since. I’ve had no ER visits or hospitalizations since my BT. I see Dr. Kopas every few months just to check in.
The difference in my asthma control is night and day. I have no more tightness in my chest and no more wheezing. Even if I have a cold now, I can walk a mile and not have issues breathing. It really is amazing.
My quality of life as related to my severe asthma has improved so much from those rough years leading up to my BT treatments. I can go for a walk with my husband. When I babysit my granddaughter I can carry her up the stairs. Simple things like that are such a joy now because I remember what it felt like not to be able to do those things.
We are moving soon to be closer to our granddaughter and it’s very exciting. I am busy packing and preparing and I am not worried about asthma at all.
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.