Nurse, runner, and passionate supporter of better asthma education
"In the end, with a lot of help, I chose not to let asthma define me. The trials I have endured with my asthma have strengthened me. I keep a plaque in my office, a daily reminder on my wall. "Life is not measured by the breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away."
My Life Prior to BT:
I’ve probably had it all my life, but I was finally diagnosed with severe asthma at age 14. I was volunteering at a local Children’s Hospital and a pulmonary nurse heard me coughing and said I needed to be seen by a pulmonologist. As I grew older it became much more severe. In my late twenties I was training for a marathon, but by my mid-thirties, I was just trying to get through the day without an attack.
My local care was not going well so after hearing a doctor speak about Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT), I went to Chicago to be evaluated. Hearing I had severe asthma made me sit up. I don’t think I even realized how severe it had become. From that point I made sure I was taking my medications as prescribed, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding my asthma triggers as best I could. Like many with severe asthma, this was not enough to keep it well controlled.
We tried so many medications like Advair™, Spiriva™, Flovent™, Qvar™, Serevent™. I did the Xolair shots for 6 months but did not see any real difference. I did allergy shots for mold and dust. I tried to avoid the weather changes. I did all that and still needed my inhaler 10-12 times a day and several nebs too. I went from just needing bursts occasionally to needing a daily low dose of prednisone. In the years leading up to BT, I was a regular in the ICU. In my thirties alone I had 50 hospital visits with several intubations and bipaps. It was no way to live.
When I heard about BT I was a little leery. I thought ‘my lungs are bad enough without sticking some heat down my airways’ but then my husband did a lot of research and we read many success stories about BT. My health and quality of life was really declining. My lung function was down to 14% and I had to go on a part-time work schedule. I was running out of options.
When I agreed to get BT, my doctor warned me that insurance approvals can take time with this. However, he called the insurance that day and told them they had to approve me quickly or else they would be paying for a lung transplant within a few years. My BT was approved 24 hours later.
My Life Today
The treatments were not so easy for me. I had to spend a week in the ICU after each of the three procedures. I felt like my lungs were angry for a while but, about five months post BT, they finally felt fully recovered and my improvements were amazing. I could breathe freely. My peak flow prior to the treatments was 300. After BT, it zoomed up to 560. I went back to work. For the first time since I was 14, life was looking good for our family.
Just a few months after BT a devastating tornado passed through my town. It destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses. We were lucky. Our house was fine. But my lungs were not fine. The airborne debris from the tornado sent my lungs into crisis. By the time we got to Chicago, my oxygen level was down to 72% and falling. I lost consciousness in the clinic. I wound up on a ventilator for a day.
The air quality in my town took months to return to normal so I went to stay at my sister's house in Missouri. After three months, we felt it was safe for me to go back home. Here is the amazing part….I did phenomenally well. I am back to work, running again, and living the life God gave me. When I come home from work I am not attached to a nebulizer struggling to breathe all night. I am making dinner and taking care of my family. It's amazing how breathing freely has raised my spirits and quality of life.”
Before BT, severe asthma was robbing me of a good life. I was not able to have my own children because of how sick I was. I never travelled or took vacations because I had to use all my time for sick days. I stopped going for my masters degree because it was just too much. Now that I had BT and my severe asthma is controlled, I am finally living life on my own terms. I still use my inhalers, but I no longer need prednisone bursts. I have a great support system, crucial for anyone living with a chronic illness like severe asthma. My husband, Chris, is possibly the world's best. Without his help and encouragement, I’m not sure how I would have made it through this journey to better health. I am going to school to become an asthma educator. I want to help others get control of their asthma and live the best lives they can.
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.