Karen's Story

Melbourne, FL

Grandma who loves water sports and spending time with her family

Procedure Details:

Age at Treatment: 62
Doctor: Dr. Sebastian Fernandez-Bussy
Hospital: Mayo Clinic Florida
Date of Procedure: October 2019

Life Before Zephyr® Valves:

Before COPD/emphysema I was always on the go. Living in Florida, I grew up on the water and love surfing and scuba diving.  In my career I was a domestic violence counselor, Juvenile Justice Resident Officer, and a property manager.  I was also a cheerleading coach and gymnastics instructor. Needless to say, I kept very busy!

About 10 years ago I had to call 911 because I couldn’t breathe. I was put on a ventilator and in an induced coma. They thought it was an allergic reaction, but it was my lungs. I had a new grandbaby that was only 15 days old when that happened. To think of all I almost missed.

Once I was diagnosed with COPD/emphysema, I tried to go on living life, but I kept getting sick. I was on prednisone several times a year. I did go to a pulmonologist, but I didn’t like what he had to say. He told me all the things I couldn’t do, and I was shocked when he recommended I get on the lung transplant list.

Five years ago, on a trip to Hawaii, I realized I was really struggling with all the walking. It wasn’t too long after that just walking to the car had me winded. About four years ago they put me on oxygen. I was a “closet user.” When everyone else took a lunch break, I’d go in the car and drive around to use my oxygen where no one could see. I didn’t even want to tell my kids!

My big life started to shrink. I used to teach diving and swimming lessons, but it got to the point where I couldn’t even clean my pool anymore. Some days I didn’t even care if I ate. This disease was taking a physical and mental toll on me.

I still had some fight in me though. I have four biological grandkids and five step grandkids, and for some of them I am the only living grandparent. I wanted to be there for them. After seeing a post about the Zephyr Valves on Facebook, I asked my doctor about them. Well, he didn’t know too much but said the procedure wouldn’t work for me because my lungs were already too far gone. I told him we’d have to agree to disagree, and I went to the Mayo Clinic where the valves were offered.

At Mayo, Dr. Bussy explained the guidelines and answered all my questions. After all the testing, they called to say I qualified….and boy was that a reason to celebrate!


Life After Zephyr Valves:

I was lucky because my insurance, United Healthcare, approved the procedure right away. The procedure went smoothly, and I felt the impact immediately. When I woke up from the procedure it felt like an elephant had been taken off my chest.

Since having the valves, I feel wonderful and I am happy to be back on the go. In December, just two months after my valves, I was able to walk up and down an entire street without oxygen to look at the Christmas lights with my grandkids. I still have the oxygen in the car, but I don’t need it. I know I am not cured, and I am still cautious to avoid anywhere there is smoke, but I am doing so much better it’s remarkable!

I am looking forward to getting back in the water again. I’ve been cleared to scuba dive again, but I am most excited to be able to swim with my grandkids this summer. I am so blessed with a big loving family and I am just grateful to be feeling well again so we can enjoy our time together.

I want to share my story because there are a lot of people who can benefit from these valves. For many of us, it’s the difference between living and just surviving.

What is the Zephyr Valve procedure?

The Zephyr Valve is the first FDA-approved, minimally-invasive device available in the U.S. for treating patients with severe emphysema. A physician uses a bronchoscope to place on average 4 tiny valves in the airways to block off the damaged areas of the lungs so air no longer gets trapped there. No cutting or incision is required and the procedure is usually complete in under an hour.

The valve placement allows the healthier parts of the lungs to expand and relieves the pressure on the diaphragm, which decreases shortness of breath and makes breathing easier. Patients report being able to take full breaths immediately after the procedure and within a few days are back to doing everyday tasks with ease.

Learn More
Results from case studies are not necessarily predictive of results in other cases. Results in other cases may vary.
Complications of the Zephyr Endobronchial Valve treatment can include but are not limited to pneumothorax, worsening of COPD symptoms, hemoptysis, pneumonia, dyspnea and, in rare cases, death.
P0989EN_A – April 2020 Patient Story–KarenD–Melbourne, FL