Wife, Mom and Grandmother. BT "Team Sara" all the way!
My Life Prior to BT:
I’ve been an asthmatic all my life. My youngest memories were having asthma. There was a short period of my life when I did not suffer asthma as a teenager. I don’t know why, but I was fortunate. My asthma started back up as a young adult. Within the last ten years it has escalated out of control. It became very hard to manage. When my granddaughter was born in Oct of 2017, I found that I couldn’t walk her to the park, play in the back yard with her, or simply sing a song and clap and play without becoming out of breath.
Everything triggered my asthma, especially environmental factors. I live in a farm community, so I’m exposed to a lot of alfalfa and animal hair—goats, cows, horses, etc. Just going to the grocery store and being close to someone with animal dander on their clothing could cause an attack. Being sick with a sinus infection or a cold would trigger an asthma attack. It was very unpredictable. Since I work in a hospital, I have access to care and can avoid the ER. When I did have to go to the ER, a regular ER visit for me would typically result in a 3-day hospital stay.
I’ve done allergy shots all my life on and off and probably seven years ago I started taking Xolair™. I took Xolair injections monthly for about two years and it was successful, but it was so expensive. My insurance changed, I couldn’t afford it anymore. When my insurance picked it up again, I had a terrible reaction and could not take it. Throughout this time, I was always steroid dependent, taking anywhere from 10-20mg of prednisone a day. At times in the last ten years my doctor had raised my dose to as high as 80mg a day to try and control my asthma. Four years ago, at the age of 52, I started to develop cataracts in both eyes from the steroids. I had cataract surgery to replace the lenses in both eyes. I have gained a total of 50 pounds over the years from the steroids.
My pulmonologist had gone to see a lecture on BT and suggested the treatments to me. I got a referral to The University of Colorado. It took almost a year to get approved for BT. Many insurance companies do not classify BT as a medical necessity. Finally, after fighting, I was approved for BT. The last procedure was on 12/20/18.
We went through as many insurance appeals as possible. We had to fight, fight, fight. If you have trouble getting insurance to cover BT, your physician and their office staff will help you fight to get these procedures. For me it was excruciating, it was heart-wrenching. It took everything out of me. I kept fighting for the ability to live a normal life being active and the ability to play with our granddaughter. We have always called the procedures ‘BT for Team Sara.’
My Life Today:
I can walk the stairs, the halls at work, I’m able to go outside and shovel snow. For me, the BT procedures themselves, were easy to get through, it’s not surgery. After each procedure though, the recovery was brutal, I tell people “it’s not for sissies!” I was constantly coughing and could not catch my breath. It was exhausting, and I was already exhausted from the fight to get the BT. Then right when I started to stop coughing and feel like I was going to be okay, it had been three weeks and I had to do it all over again!
Two weeks after the last procedure, I woke up and it was like, “Oh my gosh!” It sounds ridiculous, but I cleaned the whole house and vacuumed for the first time in a year. My husband was doing all those things for me before. I couldn’t stop there; I swept and mopped the floors, I did the window seals. I can carry laundry upstairs now. To me, BT is amazing. It was all worth it.
My advice to someone who is considering BT is that you should be prepared for the recovery—it might be difficult, it might not, but it’s temporary. I have people now who I work with who saw me go through it, they haven’t seen me for a while and they are amazed. They say: “Is that you?”. I don’t have deep dark circles under my eyes, my fingernails are pink, my feet are pink. I am not trying to catch my breath during a conversation. I remember trying to go through a Pilates class before BT and the instructor came over and said, “I’m really worried about you, your feet are gray.” Now I don’t stop. I’m able to be a “normal” wife, mom and grandmother. If this procedure can happen for just one more asthmatic it was worth everything. I will be with them for that fight. It is worth it. It will change your 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.