Joellen Reinhardt was struggling to breathe and being on daily oxygen when a magazine article grabbed her attention.
A feature story explained how new and promising innovations in treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were making life better for those suffering from the condition.
"I've had COPD for many years, and my lung capacity ranged from 42 to 48 percent and I was not a candidate for a lung transplant," said Reinhardt, a former Army and Indiana National Guard member and a resident of Lawrence, Indiana. "I asked a friend of mine who runs a local respiratory clinic, and I mentioned the article."
Indeed, her friend was aware of one such innovation at Franciscan Health Indianapolis. It was a treatment called the Zephyr® Valve system, an FDA-approved, minimally-invasive procedure requiring no incisions or cutting that had been shown to vastly improve the quality of life for those with COPD and severe emphysema.
How Zephyr Valves Help COPD Patients
"We are grateful to offer this new treatment because our severe COPD and emphysema patients struggle with each breath," said Faisal Khan, MD, an interventional pulmonologist for Franciscan Health who has been leading the Zephyr initiative since spring 2020. "Until now, the only other options for these patients were highly-invasive procedures such as lung transplants. Zephyr has the potential to be a life-changer for many patients."
The one-time procedure is done during a simple 30-to-60 minute bronchoscopy that requires no incision. It places an average of four tiny valves into the airways to block diseased parts of the lungs. This reduces hyperinflation of the damaged areas and allows healthier lung tissue to expand and ease pressure off the diaphragm.
"This results in being less short of breath and having an easier time breathing," said Dr. Khan. "Clinical studies show that patients treated with Zephyr valves enjoy a significantly improved quality of life compared to untreated patients."
Reinhardt underwent the procedure in late July.
"Up until that time, I was on oxygen daily," she said. "I had virtually no level of activity and something as simple as walking left me struggling to breathe."
Just one week after her treatment, she began to notice marked improvement in her ability to breathe. Today, she's off her daily oxygen, poking around the garden at her home, climbing stairs and resuming other routine activities.