Michigan Woman With Severe Asthma Has New Hope Through Bronchial Thermoplasty

 

For some people with severe asthma, medicines may not be enough to help keep their asthma under control. A procedure called bronchial thermoplasty may offer relief, reducing asthma episodes or attacks in people with severe asthma.

Lexi Larabee, who has severe asthma, is currently undergoing bronchial thermoplasty. Below, Lexi shares her experience in her own words. Today, she is scheduled for her second procedure. Join us in wishing her well during the procedure and recovery!


Life Before Bronchial Thermoplasty

My name is Lexi Larabee. I am 23 years old, and I have been a severe asthmatic since the day I was born. I thought people were more likely to grow out of their asthma as they get older, but mine worsened drastically.

I have been hospitalized countless times throughout my life. I have had to stay for a few days up to a couple weeks. When I was in middle school, I had a severe attack that changed my life. I was at home and collapsed on the floor and quit breathing. I was rushed to the hospital while my parents were doing CPR on me. By the time I got to the hospital, my body had shut down and they didn't think I was going to pull through

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This is my attack in November before bronchial thermoplasty. Photo credit: Jeff and Shawnee Larabee

After being on life support for 14 hours, I woke up at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was in the hospital for a little over a week, and then I was released. In between then and now, I was hospitalized, but not for anything too major like that. But then November of 2016, it happened again. I ended up being taken from Mercy Hospital in Muskegon, Michigan, to Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. This time I was on the bi-pap machine for 14 hours and on morphine to keep my body calm so it could ride out “The Storm” as comfortably as possible.

Getting Approved for Bronchial Thermoplasty

The past five years, my pulmonologist has been talking about this newer procedure called bronchial thermoplasty. It has always been a conversation, but then it was a huge fight with my insurance company. They wouldn’t approve it for me as it is still considered experimental.

My pulmonologist didn’t give up though. He worked and worked to be able to do this procedure on me as he stood by my side through it all. It was a rollercoaster ride for sure. I never gave up, and then my health insurance changed and they approved me! In order to be approved, I had to do three months of asthma education so they knew I was doing everything in my power to have my asthma under control (which I was). After being approved after those three months of classes, I was in the operating room three weeks later!

What Is Bronchial Thermoplasty? How Is It Done?

Bronchial thermoplasty is done in three sessions. They use controlled thermal energy (heat) to reduce smooth muscle mass in the airways. For me, the first session has treated the bottom left lobe, second will be the bottom right and then in the last procedure they will do the two upper parts of the lungs. My procedures are done 28 days apart from one another and take about a half hour to an hour. It is outpatient, so that’s also a plus!

Life After Bronchial Thermoplasty

I had the first procedure on Sept. 6, 2018, the second one is on Oct. 4, 2018, and the third one will be the beginning of November. Before bronchial thermoplasty, my peak flow readings (on a good day) were around 300-320. A week after my first procedure, my peak flow readings were around 500-520.

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My kitten helping me heal after surgery. Photo credit: Lexi Larabee

I have not needed my nebulizer nor my rescue (quick-relief) inhaler. Before bronchial thermoplasty, I would need a treatment the second my eyes opened in the morning and needed my inhaler all day long. I have been on 50mg of prednisone for a year now, and I have been down to 10mg the past month. I have already noticed a huge change, and I am SO excited to see how I feel after all three procedures are done, seeing how amazing I feel after one!

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This is three weeks out. (Left to right) My friends Chris, Becca, Kari, me and Tasha. Photo credit: Lexi Larabee

I honestly would recommend to any severe asthmatic to not give up and keep seeking treatments and solutions with your doctor so you can find something that works to improve your asthma. This has been a complete life changer already for me!

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I underwent my second Bronchial Thermoplasty on October 4th, 2018. My recovery from BT 2 was a bit longer than the first procedure because my left side is weaker than my right. I was back to work though after 5 days off and back to my everyday life. I just had my third and final procedure done and being day 1 it has been ROUGH. my ribs feel like they're all cracked, I get winded just sitting up in bed but this is all expected and normal. I just keep telling myself it will all pay off in the end and the pain is only temporary. Once I am all healed from this final procedure, I want to slowly start working out and getting back onto my healthy lifestyle without prednisone!! My goal in the next year is to be running my first 5k with a group of people for a victory run! I have never been able to run or even speed walk so this has always been one of my dreams.

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BT 1 on top; BT 2 on bottom: BT 3 on the right
I am so very excited to share my stats with you!!!
September 6th, 2018 (BT 1): Lung functions 11%
October 4th, 2018 (BT 2): Lung functions 32%
November 1st, 2018 (BT 3): Lung functions 82%
I will keep you updated when I am all healed from this final one  

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