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I'm Living with COPD, But I Have My Life Back

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A Unique Lung Procedure Gave John a New Lease on Life

Posted by John C.

I went to the Temple Lung Center for a second opinion on treating my COPD, and that's when I learned about a brand-new treatment called bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (BLVR).

How it all began

I’m John. I live in Milton, Delaware, and I’m as happy as can be. But it wasn’t always this way.

I had lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for years. COPD is a strange disease. You don’t have quality of life. You worry from one minute to the next. Am I going to breathe? Am I parked too far from here? Can I make that distance? You’re constantly worrying about whether you’ve filled your oxygen tank and if you remembered your spare tank. It consumes every thought. That's what it does to you.

But when I fractured my ribs in a car crash, I had trouble doing my breathing exercises. I ended up getting the flu. It was at that point that a pulmonologist told me I should get my affairs in order.

My wife was with me every step of the way.

I have a great life with my wife. After 45 years of working in the medical field, I’m retired. I’m close with my granddaughters. I just couldn’t accept that I wouldn’t be able to spend another Christmas with them.

I sought out a second opinion — and this time there was hope. After my exam, my doctor sat down with me and my wife. He said, “Look, Dr. Criner and his team at the Temple Lung Center are doing stuff for people with your problem. I’d like to refer you there.”

And so my wife and I traveled back and forth to Philadelphia, where Dr. Criner’s team told me about a brand-new treatment that may be an option for me.

A procedure that could help me

It wasn’t an immediate decision. My care team explained, “Well, we have these valves.” I didn’t know what they were talking about, so they told me about bronchoscopic lung volume reduction, or BLVR. It’s a procedure that helps you get more air out of your lungs. And that helps relieve your symptoms.

After 2 weeks of tests, they decided I was a candidate. We scheduled the procedure for May 29. I knew all I had to do was make that date.

I went from being unable to walk 10 feet without oxygen to walking a quarter mile to the mailbox without straining.

They put 4 valves in my upper lobe, one valve in my middle lobe, and I got my life back. I went from being unable to walk 10 feet without oxygen to just being what I am now — nice and normal, nice and comfortable, not straining myself to breathe. This is why I’m happy.

From struggling to breathe, to playing with my granddaughters

Dr. Criner explained that the BLVR procedure is “not a cure, but it will improve your quality of life." He was right. And you know what? When you get that bad, improving quality of life is just as good as a cure.

I may not be able to run 10 miles, but I can walk on the boardwalk with my granddaughters. I can play with them in the pool. I can bounce and do anything I really want to do. That’s fine by me.

It was an amazing feeling just to be able to walk down the street to collect our mail.

Where I am now is like a miracle. I got another chance, and that’s what makes this whole thing so remarkable. I was in the medical field for 45 years. I never saw anybody come back from this, and guess what? I did.

Another chance I didn't have before

It's remarkable that the guy [Dr. Criner] who created BLVR was located right in Philadelphia and was able to perform this procedure on me. Now there's a whole bunch of people who, like me, have a chance that they didn't have before.

Everyone who works at the Temple Lung Center is focused on the same thing. They have a plan for whoever is there, not just me. So if people don’t fit into the program I had, they are offered other things, whatever the difficulty might be.

I couldn’t have done it without the Temple Lung Center. I just couldn’t have done it without them.

Enjoying a night of bowling with my wife — and breathing fine!

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