Severe emphysema relief: From difficulty rolling over in bed to swimming with dolphins

(BPT) - A year ago, Cheri’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was classified as stage IV, requiring constant support from an oxygen tank. Even rolling over in bed at night exhausted her.

Cheri was on a waiting list for a lung transplant when her pulmonologist in Eugene, Oregon, asked her if she would be interested in undergoing a new minimally invasive procedure, a bronchoscopic lung volume reduction. During the procedure, a doctor uses a bronchoscope to place one-way valves in identified lung airways. The valves stop air from entering the diseased part of the lungs and allow the healthy part of the lungs to expand, thereby decreasing shortness of breath.

Despite the fact that the closest doctor who could perform the procedure was 600 miles away in Mountain View, California, Cheri decided to proceed. In March 2019, she traveled to El Camino Health’s Mountain View Hospital. She was required to arrive at the hospital one day prior to the operation to meet with the interventional pulmonologist.

“I had looked up Dr. Ganesh Krishna on YouTube, so meeting him wasn’t like meeting a stranger,” Cheri recalls. “As a retired nurse, I know when you get into specialty treatment areas, it can become more scientific and confusing, but his compassion and concern never made me feel overwhelmed.”

The Mountain View Hospital was the first hospital in California to offer the Zephyr treatment for patients with severe COPD/emphysema, and Cheri was among the first 10 patients to receive the treatment. At the time, it was only available at select hospitals that were part of clinical research trials to get the device approved.

After the procedure, Cheri spent three nights in the hospital while being monitored with telemetry and by a respiratory therapist. A physical therapist also came in to assist her with walking. She was nervous about being discharged and living so far away should something happen, but the team reassured her she was in good hands with her primary pulmonologist back home.

“Entry to exit, everybody at El Camino Health was professional, kind and very helpful,” Cheri said. “The nursing care was a step above the norm.”

Since Cheri and her family made the lengthy drive from Eugene to Mountain View, they decided to extend their stay in California. Four days following the treatment, the family visited Six Flags in Vallejo, where Cheri and her granddaughter swam with dolphins — an activity that would’ve been impossible a week before.

“I feel unbelievable now,” Cheri said. “I’m no longer relying on oxygen and I can play with my toddler grandchildren, walk up and down flights of stairs and walk long distances, no problem.”

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