Sue loves being out in the sun, chasing after a Frisbee with her dog Minnie. When she is out with her husband, he tells her to slow down because he cannot keep up with her.
That, however, was not always the case for the Levittown, Pennsylvania resident. For several years she needed oxygen almost all the time, even when she was showering and dressing. “My husband Ron and daughter Christina did all of the grocery shopping,” she recalls. “If I needed something from the store, I made and list and they would go get it.”
Her local pulmonologist told her that she was in the advanced stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). His recommendation: Go to the Temple Lung Center. When she did, Gerard J. Criner, MD, showed Sue her X-rays and CT scan. “My lungs were huge and my diaphragm was misshapen because my lungs were so large,” she recalls. “He also showed me the good news, which was that the disease was mostly confined to the upper lobes which meant I still had good lung underneath.”
Typically, such patients undergo lung volume reduction surgery. However, Dr. Criner told Sue that she was a candidate for a noninvasive clinical trial that didn’t involve surgery. Sue decided to take part in the trial in April 2015. Dr. Criner used a bronchoscope to place two valves in the upper chamber of the then 64-year-old’s right lung. The procedure was designed to block airflow to the diseased part of her lung, allowing the healthy areas of her lung to expand better and improve breathing.
Now, Sue goes shopping with her husband and cleans her own house. “Just being able to do simple things is so incredible to me now,” says the great–grandmother. Today she walks up to two miles a day on a treadmill, does arm exercises and uses leg weights—all without supplemental oxygen.