Operation breathes new life into lifelong asthma sufferer

JENNIFER Holroyd has had breathing problems all her life.

Jennifer Holroyd underwent  revolutionary surgery for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
Jennifer Holroyd underwent revolutionary surgery for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Asthma first struck when she was a baby but her condition deteriorated with the onset of emphysema two decades ago which left her with worsening breathing difficulties.

She needed 20 minutes to recover after a shower, had to give up tending her garden and even required help to put on her socks.

But now her condition has significantly improved thanks to a new procedure to improve her lung function. Previously she was barely able to walk 300 yards on a flat surface but now she can tackle the stairs at her home in Gomersal, West Yorkshire.

The non-invasive technique involves fitting valves which prevent air from entering the most damaged areas of her lung when she breathes in, while allowing air out when she exhales. This enables airflow to be directed towards the better functioning parts of her lung, leading to improved breathing.

Mrs Holroyd, 68, said when she came round she first asked if she was still alive. “It was the first time in 67 years I couldn’t hear a wheeze,” she said.

She is now back in the garden and even planning a holiday to St Petersburg with her husband John. “I wish I could have had it years ago,” she said. “I missed out on a lot with my grandchildren simply because I could not go and see them when they were younger because of my condition. My friends and family have noticed a huge difference and I can do so much more with them now than I ever could.”

Thoracic surgeon Kostas Papagiannopoulos, who carried out the endobronchial lung volume reduction procedure at the Spire Hospital in Leeds, said it was ideal for patients for whom surgery was not an option.

“The most important thing for me is the fact that the treatment gives back independence to patients with severe breathing difficulties, such as Jennifer. We have seen quality of life improvements in patients and their breathing has become easier and better.”