Hear from BT patients about their journey with severe asthma and how BT improved their asthma-related quality of life.


Mark

PhD, Program Director, proud father and grandfather

Age: 56

Hometown: Tucson, AZ

BT Doctor: Dr. James L. Knepler

BT Procedure Date: Spring 2012

I was diagnosed with severe asthma when I was just one year old. There was some improvement during my teenage years, but I have lived with severe asthma for all of my adulthood. Over the years we tried so many medications to try and get my asthma to a place where it was controlled. We tried Xolair™, Singulair™, Qvar™, Advair 550™, Flonase™, Allegra™, Prolair™, albuterol, and of course Prednisone. I used my rescue inhalers 8-12 times a day and required nebulizer treatments about every 3 weeks. I tried really hard to stay ahead of my attacks to avoid the ER but still needed a trip there every 10 months or so. I was hospitalized a few times as well. One of the worst parts of asthma is dealing with all of the medication side effects. I took a lot of Prednisone and really suffered for it. My side effects included adrenal failure which caused terrible pain and fatigue, and of course weight gain.

Once I decided to move forward with Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT), it took a while to get the insurance coverage for it. I went through several rounds of appeals with my health insurance company, including rounds where my doctors sent letters on my behalf. The final option was to take it to medical arbitration. I had nothing to lose, though my expectations weren’t high after being denied so many times already. I felt lucky when the arbitrator ruled on my behalf in October of 2012! I started my BT procedures just a few weeks later.

The impact BT had for me is quite dramatic. I have overall better asthma control. Having struggled my whole life, almost daily, with asthma, so to finally be living a life that is not centered on my asthma control is amazing. Traveling is so much easier now. Last year alone I visited Islamabad, Bangkok, Seoul, and Riyadh. There was smog, heat, and dust to deal with in those places but I had no issues with my asthma. I also enjoy hiking, fishing, and hunting. And I am spending much less on my asthma control for sure. I would encourage insurance companies to look at the numbers because I know I am definitely costing them less now!


Krystal

Insurance Adjuster, traveler and spends time with her close family

Age: 33

Hometown: Orlando, FL

BT Doctor: Dr. Tabarak Qureshi

BT Procedure Date: Fall 2014

I was diagnosed with asthma as a baby. Some of my earliest memories include using an inhaler at pre-school. I was the kid who couldn’t play so much. Then when I was around 8 the disease went dormant, but came back strong when I was a senior in high school and just grew worse over time. We tried all the meds. I was on Singulair™, Advair™, many antibiotics, Solu-Medrol™, albuterol, Pulmicort™, DuoNeb™, and Asmanex™. I also tried the Xolair™ shots for 6 months but they didn’t work for me. The worst, of course, was the Prednisone which varied from 10mg to 40mg. It had a big negative impact on my overall health. The year leading up to my Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT) was the worst. I was classified as disabled and couldn’t work. I required nebulizer treatments every 4 hours and was on 2 liters of oxygen a day. I was hospitalized 6-8 times not including the frequent ER trips. My quality of life was just horrible. I was young but living like a very old person.

When my doctor first recommended BT, I was really nervous about it. After speaking with other BT patients and suffering yet another severe asthma attack that landed me in hospital, I knew I needed to try this treatment option. Unfortunately, I was denied by health insurance provider, but because I was then classified as disabled, I was able to go on Medicare and they approved it.

I would have BT again in a heartbeat! I still have severe asthma but now that it is in better control it does not hold me back. I am constantly on the go now. I have a career and travel for work and pleasure all the time. I went to DC for a family vacation which I hadn’t been able to do for years because my severe asthma held me back. I even went to Bush Gardens and rode a roller coaster! My mom got so emotional that day. She couldn’t believe I was able to ride a coaster without having a severe asthma attack.


David

Regional Marine Mammal Response Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Service, competitive canoe boat racer

Age: 52

Hometown: Kaneohe, HI

BT Doctor: Dr. Warren Tamamoto

BT Procedure Date: Winter 2015

I’ve had asthma since birth. I have allergic asthma and that can be tough in Hawaii where vegetation is always blooming and volcanic gases and smoke also irritate my asthma. Over the years I tried many of the medications. I used Pulmicort™ and albuterol nebulizer treatments at a pretty high frequency. I was also on Zyflo™ which required I have regular liver function tests because it can have a negative impact on the liver. I also had Xolair™ shots and tried many different inhalers. Over the seven years when my severe asthma presented with acute symptoms, I had to go to the hospital emergency room. I missed work occasionally and had a lot of trouble sleeping. Even though I self-managed my severe asthma, having consistent control was difficult and it was having a big impact on my quality of life. I am also an avid canoe boat racer. I would have to retreat with Prednisone and use my inhaler along the course. Even with the medications, I would still have to sit out of some races because of my severe asthma. I knew I needed to do something other than medications.

I battled with my insurance company for 2 years with the support of three doctors and two advocacy firms, repeatedly requesting that they approve bronchial thermoplasty, but to no avail. The fight and the stress it caused can be physically exhausting when you have asthma. I switched insurances, and after a year wait with them, I underwent Bronchial Thermoplasty.

It has now been over a year since I had BT and I have been doing amazing. I have only been on Prednisone for one 5-day burst when I caught the flu. This is a stark contrast to years prior where I would need Prednisone bursts on a regular basis to treat severe asthma attacks. My health and asthma-related quality of life have improved greatly. Recently I completed my 3rd crossing of the Kaiwi channel in an internationally recognized canoe race called the Molokai Hoe. I had no issues over the course of the 7 hour 40 minute journey. I have an exciting and physically demanding job that involves oversight of the Pacific Islands Marine Mammal Response Network. The marine animal rescues are high-intensity activities where I can’t afford to have health issues. I still have severe asthma, but it does not dictate my life anymore.


Julie

Works in Nuclear Medicine, golfer and traveler

Age: 38

Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK

BT Doctor: Dr. Dennis Parker

BT Procedure Date: Summer 2014

I’ve had severe asthma since I was two years old and I was severe from early on. As a child I was hospitalized once a month and a ventilator was always close by. Over the years we tried many medications, Xolair™, Advair™, numerous inhalers, and of course lots of Prednisone. I needed 2-3 nebulizer treatments per day and I would need my inhaler 10-12 times a day. Even with all the medications I would still end up in the hospital at least once a year. My whole life revolved around managing the beast called asthma! As an adult I took up golfing, and it’s become a real passion of mine. However, my asthma often decided whether I could play or not. Even when I did play I would always use rescue medication before, during, and after, and I always rode in a golf cart to each hole. The walking was just not possible.

I first heard about Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT) from a friend who had seen a news story about it. I knew I needed this but insurance took some convincing. The company I work for has its own internal health insurance plan and my BT was denied several times. I then took it to the Chief Medical Officer of the company. I explained that I work for a healthcare company and the device for the procedure was at one of our hospitals. It just didn’t make sense that they would not approve this procedure for me. Well, it was worth the fight. They not only approved BT for me but approved it for all company employees moving forward. I had almost given up, but I’m so glad I kept pushing because in a way I blazed a trail for other employees who may need to have this done.

The procedures went pretty smoothly for me. Now it’s been over two years. I am golfing more and better yet, I can walk the courses now! I am missing less work. Haven’t had any ER visits. I’ve only needed one burst of steroids for a severe flare up in the past two years. Before BT, I needed one per month! My whole life used to revolve around being ready for the next attack. My family worried constantly. I would always have to text my mom in the morning so she knew I was okay. Now they don’t have to worry so much. It’s less stress for everyone.