Last year, Jane Denny, 66 of Conover became one of the first patients in the region to have an innovative new treatment for asthma called Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT). “This procedure gave me my life back,” says Jane. “I only wish I could have had it sooner.”
Jane’s Life Prior to BT – “I’ve been in the hospital many times with chronic asthma,” says Jane. “I developed it as a very young child, but it became really severe when I was 26. One hospitalization lasted over three weeks.”
Prior to BT, there were times when Jane’s lips and fingertips turned blue. She had to quit her job at the Burke County Dept of Social Services as she was repeatedly being admitted to the hospital or making trips to the emergency room — at least once every month. When her children were young, they worried she was going to die.
She says, “I didn’t want to quit my job. It was very difficult – I had a poor quality of life with no energy and my asthma grew more and more severe. I depended on inhalers and medications. I had four sinus surgeries trying to help. Nothing really worked.”
Doctors treated Jane’s asthma with inhalers and steroids, which made her gain weight – 25 pounds in one month. She was hesitant to go anywhere socially because having an attack left her breathless. She felt like she was suffocating or having to breathe through a narrow straw. When sleeping, she had to prop herself up on pillows. She explains that a lot of people don’t understand asthma because she didn’t look sick. Today, her voice is raspy because of damaged vocal chords, a side effect of using inhalers for so many years.
Until BT, all asthma treatments had very limited success.
Jane’s Life Today – During yet another hospital visit in 2015, Jane saw a sign promoting BT and she quickly looked into it, making an appointment with Pulmonologist Dr. William Erwin at Catawba Valley Pulmonology. He confirmed she was a candidate. “I really like Dr. Erwin’s demeanor, he is very easy to talk to, fully explained the procedure and made me feel completely confident.”
Dr. Erwin says that Bronchial Thermoplasty is a safe and effective outpatient procedure that provides a long-lasting reduction in severe asthma attacks for adults like Jane who suffer with asthma that is not well controlled with maintenance medications.
Now that Jane’s asthma is more manageable, she’s finally out of the cycle she was in for most of her life: getting steroids – infections – antibiotics, and depending on inhalers. Even the staff at Catawba Valley Pulmonology is amazed at the difference BT made in the quality of Jane’s life.
“I could tell a big difference almost immediately,” reports Jane. “Now, when I lay down flat on a pillow, I can breathe. Plus I’m using a nebulizer and oxygen much less. Before BT, I would not leave my house without a rescue inhaler. Now I am traveling and enjoying life. I have more stamina and confidence. I go on walks at the Conover Y and I’ve joined CVMC’s Fitness Plus. For me, BT has helped make me the happiest I’ve ever been.”
How BT Works – BT reduces the amount of excess smooth muscle tissue in the airways. Thus in response to an asthma trigger, there is less constriction or narrowing of the airways, so breathing is easier, and there is less likelihood of a severe asthma attack. This is different from asthma medicines that work by opening up the airways by reducing swelling or causing the muscle in the airway wall to relax; although these medicines don’t always work well in people who have severe asthma.
To find out if you are a candidate for Bronchial Thermoplasty, call Catawba Valley Pulmonology at 828.326.2660. The practice is located at 3521 Graystone Place, SE across from Catawba Valley Medical Center.