The shortness of breath people experience during vigorous exercise is how Vicki Hoeger-Holien felt walking across her house to answer the door.
Dr. Abubakr Bajwa, a critical care pulmonologist at Ascension St. Vincent’s Lung Institute, said COPD blocks air passages, causing air to become trapped and inflate the lungs. This made Vicki feel winded with minimal physical activity.
“I placed four Zephyr valves in airways leading to areas of her lungs that were overinflated,” he explained. “The valves are designed to allow air to flow out of this section of the lung, but not to flow in. By restricting airflow to these areas, it can give healthier areas of the lung more room to expand and reduce stress on the diaphragm.”
When Vicki woke up from the procedure, she immediately noticed an improvement in her breathing. “I could take in a deeper breath,” she said.
Vicki learned to adapt to life with declining lung function. She continued to do activities she enjoyed, like traveling. But a bout of pneumonia last year further damaged her lungs, requiring her to be on continuous oxygen therapy.
“An oxygen canister limits your outdoor activities,” she said. While Vicki still requires oxygen overnight or during times of illness, she is enjoying the freedom and energy she has regained after surgery. And she’ll need both as she enjoys getting to know her new grandchild.