Beginning in her mid-20s, Lynda G. would periodically find herself gasping for air.
At the time, doctors told her she had exercise-induced asthma — a misdiagnosis that would last more than 2 decades.
“The episodes would be sporadic,” Lynda says. “I’d be fine for months, and then suddenly something would trigger an attack and I’d wind up in the emergency room. This went on for years.”
After 20 Years, an Answer
In 2013, while working as a nurse in Montana, Lynda’s condition worsened. A local doctor diagnosed her with a type of bronchitis and then later, laryngeal spasms. Neither turned out to be correct.
At that point, she was having 2 or 3 episodes per year, each of which required hospitalization and caused her to miss work for weeks.
In 2017, Lynda got another opinion. This time, tests showed her problem was occurring farther down in the trachea (the windpipe) than originally thought. She finally had the right diagnosis: tracheobronchomalacia (TBM), a rare condition that causes the walls of the airway to become narrow and collapse.
There is a treatment that can cure TBM for some patients. It's a complex surgery called tracheobronchoplasty. Few hospitals specialize in it.
A Specialized Program
Lynda's local pulmonologist was aware of the Temple Lung Center's dedicated TBM program, led by thoracic surgeon Charles Bakhos, MD, and pulmonologist Mark Weir, MD. A native of the Philadelphia area, Lynda knew immediately this is where she should go.
In June 2018, she took a job in Delaware as a traveling nurse. She wanted to be close to Temple and begin the process of appointments and testing required for the surgery. Lynda assumed it would take many months, but another severe breathing episode at the beginning of September prompted a quicker route to the operating table. Dr. Bakhos performed her tracheobronchoplasty just a few short weeks later.
“The surgery involves sewing a nonabsorbable surgical mesh onto the back wall of the trachea and upper areas of the bronchi,” Dr. Bakhos explains. “The mesh acts as a scaffolding system to strengthen the trachea so it doesn’t collapse.”
A Return to Normal Activity
Since her surgery, Lynda has returned to activities she had previously cut back on or eliminated entirely because of her condition.