LVRS (Lung Volume Reduction Surgery) A Patients Story
I was asked to give my thoughts on LVRS (lung volume reduction surgery) and so Iíll try to make it understandable.
I was disabled with COPD in April of 1989, and went through the grief process that accompanies many of the trials of life. Thatís one of the first things one must realize about this condition. There is a grieving process we must work through. Another thing isÖitís not a death sentence.
I blundered about for a while, trying to live like Iíd always lived and found only frustrations and disappointments. Letís face it folks, if you have this disease, your life is changed. The differences between the changes in your life and my life are merely the degrees of change. Make no mistake; this is a change that will affect the rest of your life. Make all the right choices and it may be a long and happy life, of course thatís true for everyone on the face of the earth. Lesser choices result in a lesser life. Thatís called free will. As none of us is perfect you canít expect perfection of yourself, and Lord knows Iím far from perfect.
It was about two years after diagnosis that I was brought into rehab, something I recommend to everyone with COPD, do it now! I found that sometime when I felt the worst I had the best workouts. After a few sessions my legs ached so bad I wanted to quit, but my Doctor merely ordered O2 while I was exercising. Another lesson, talk to your Doctor about all kinds of stuff. He might even give you fishing tips, you never know!
I had increased breathing problems early in 1994 and finally had to go on O2 full time (actually 20 of 24 hours); I had been sleeping with 3 lpm since diagnosis. Even with the O2 I would get so short of breath that I sometimes thought Iíd never catch up again. It was like having a plastic bag over my head. I would walk out to my car and have lean on the roof for five to ten minutes just to get enough breath to sit down in the car. I got so I didnít want to leave the house. Though I still went to rehab and did my work.
As I deteriorated I became more and more frustrated; when I got a little (maybe more than a little) short with my Doctor, he decided that heíd have me get a second opinion from a colleague. That Doctor took a long look at my situation and listened to my specific complaints and decided I would need a bronchoscopy and also decided that he would find a facility with a laser so if they found something they could also fix it. He called a few places and it was suggested he send me to the University Of Minnesota transplant program for evaluation. "Then weíll know where he stands."
They decided that I was not yet a candidate for transplant, but they had a lung volume reduction study going on and it was decided that I would be a candidate. The surgeon described the surgery to me and explained their expectations of improvement to me. It took me no time at all to tell him I needed no guarantee, I needed a chance.
Surgery was done February 1, 1995 and I spent the next two weeks in the ICU unit at U of M hospital. I then transferred to a "swing bed" in a small hospital near my home in North Dakota. I was there one week. Went home for one week, with a daily visit from a nurse, and then started rehab again. For the next eight weeks I drove one hundred miles (round trip), three days a week, to rehab. One week into the rehab I was allowed to stop the use of the supplemental O2 during the day, except of course, I still was required to use it at night, & during rehab.
I canít say enough about rehab, I think it had as much to do with saving my life as anything else, including the LVRS. I was doing the cardiac rehab and talked them into adding a weight lifting program. My surgeon was so impressed with my fitness that he later made lifting a requirement for all their patients. I was in the hospital for two weeks, the patient just ahead of me was in for 60 days, and the patient who came after me was there for 64 days. The nursing staff said the difference was mostly attitude and fitness.
After LVRS I was off the O2 during the day for the next six years, during which I fished, and hunted, and helped with the fall harvest on my sisterís family farm. I was free to do what I wanted, to a degree. Granted, Iím never going to play pro ball, but then I never was that good. The main difference post LVRS is that I no longer have to fight so hard to get the used air out of my lungs to make room for the fresh stuff. When I run out of air I just stop and calmly breath until I catch up. Itís hard to explain that feeling of "vapor lock", when the air just doesnít move and your vision turns brown and fuzzy around the edges, and you start to hope you just live to get home, unless of course youíve been there, done that.
My condition has deteriorated to the point that Iíve been back on supplemental O2 for the last two years, and am now listed for transplant (Since November 2002). But, I can still mow my own lawn, with a push type power mower, though I have to strap on an O2 tank, and stop for a Ďblowí now and then. At rest, I am still allowed to be on room air, as I can maintain my SATís above 90%.
Most LVRS done these days is done with a minimally invasive procedure, which I understand, allows recovery in about a week instead of six weeks. Some people return home in as little as three days.
I canít make any guarantees, or make up someoneís mind for them, all I can do is tell you that I believe LVRS has extended, and improved the quality of, my life. It was the right way to go for me!
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Last modified: August 8, 2003