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Sandy Ball – Bronchial Thermoplasty for Asthma Success Story

Introducing another better breather

Sandy Ball is one of many patients benefiting from Methodist Charlton’s newest asthma treatment

Sandy Ball "I can walk my dogs again, I have more stamina, and
I feel so much better. It's been a real game changer."
"I can walk my dogs again, I have more stamina, and I feel so much better. It's been a real game changer."

Life with asthma was nothing new for 69-year-old Sandy Ball, who’d had the condition since childhood.

But over the past few years, the active volunteer and avid crafter began to notice that she was having more bad asthma days than good ones, even with her inhaler.

“I couldn’t go outside and enjoy the things I used to do, like walk my dogs — in fact, I couldn’t do much of anything but sit and read,” Sandy recalls. “I was sick a lot with respiratory illness. It seemed like I was constantly taking antibiotics or steroids.”

Stephen Mueller, MD, Sandy’s pulmonologist on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, noticed the decline as well.

“He went from saying, ‘See you in a year,’ to ‘See you in six months,’ then ‘See you in three months,’” Sandy says. “It was time to do something about it.”

Clearing the way for better breathing

Last summer, Sandy and Dr. Mueller decided to try bronchial thermoplasty (BT), a three-part treatment for severe asthma.

“Bronchial thermoplasty is different from other asthma treatments because it doesn’t center on a medication,” explains Dr. Mueller, who is director of the intensive care unit at Methodist Charlton. “It involves the delivery of controlled bursts of thermal energy, about the temperature of a warm cup of coffee, through a catheter that’s inserted into the bronchial tubes.”

The heat helps thin the thickened muscles that build up over time around the bronchial tubes of a person with chronic asthma.

“We work on a different part of the lungs during each of the three treatments,” Dr. Mueller says. “Once those muscles are thinned out, the patient’s airways are less likely to constrict in the future. That means that he or she will have fewer and less severe asthma attacks, which in turn means less dependency on rescue inhalers and lower dosages of maintenance medications.”

BT is a ‘game changer’

Sandy was surprised at how stress-free her BT experience was.

“I was back home resting in a matter of hours after each procedure,” she says. “Other than some mild throat soreness and coughing, I didn’t experience any side effects. And I noticed right away that I was breathing better.”

One of the main reasons that the entire process went smoothly, Sandy says, is that her health care team kept her informed at every step.

“Everything happened the way they said it was going to happen,” Sandy says. “The entire respiratory team was so friendly, upbeat, and encouraging. And I’m very grateful to Dr. Mueller, who helped me work with my insurance company to get the procedure approved.”

Since having BT last summer, Sandy has noticed an immediate and long-lasting improvement.

“I can walk my dogs again, I have more stamina, and I feel so much better,” she says. “It’s been a real game changer.”