A minimally invasive lung procedure performed at Blessing Hospital, called BLVR, has given a 70-year-old grandmother her life back.

Nancy Knight used to be easy to find.

“For three years, I stayed at home. I was not able to go to any of my grandkids’ events. I have granddaughters who play soccer and are on the swim team. And when the family went to my grandson’s baseball games, which I love to attend, I could not go with them. I did not have enough energy to walk from the parking lot to the baseball diamond.”

Decades of smoking damaged the 70-year-old Pittsfield resident and Illini Community Hospital employee’s lungs, causing severe COPD/emphysema. The disease damages the lungs, restricting the ability to obtain oxygen, thereby reducing oxygen flow in the blood. Low blood oxygen levels damage tissues and organs – including the heart and brain - over time. 

Nancy began smoking in high school. While she quit in her 60s, the damage was done. Nancy struggled for every breath. For years she used an oxygen tank around the clock every day.

“Going from one room to another took my breath away. I could hardly do it,” she recalls.

After years of being tied to an oxygen tank, Nancy had enough. She took to the internet to research treatment options.  That is where Nancy learned about the Bronchoscopic Lung Volume Reduction (BLVR) procedure.

How BLVR helps:

BLVR is a minimally invasive option to the incisions and cutting required with traditional lung volume reduction surgery in the treatment of the symptoms of COPD.  COPD cannot be cured, but its life-limiting and life-threatening symptoms can be reduced with BLVR.

For patients who qualify, based on their anatomy and level of inability to expel air from their lungs, one-way valves are placed in the diseased parts of the lung, allowing the healthier parts of the lung to function better. The valves are placed using a machine called a bronchoscope, usually inserted through the nose or mouth. The procedure typically takes under an hour.

Blessing Health board-certified, fellowship-trained pulmonologist, Umama Adil, MD, performs the BLVR procedure.

“BLVR can significantly improve breathing and quality of life for most patients who suffer with a high level of air trapped in their lungs due to COPD,” she said. “For these patients, the procedure is now the recognized gold standard of care for COPD.”

Where’s Nancy?

Since February 20, 2023, it’s been a bit harder to track down Nancy. Dr. Adil placed three valves in Nancy’s right lung through BLVR and her life changed. She is again attending her grandchildren’s sporting events, including her grandson’s baseball games as many as five nights a week.

"Nancy at grandson baseball game"

“The two key measures of the intensity of Nancy’s COPD symptoms have improved – she can expel more air and that leads to less air trapped in the lungs,” Dr. Adil concluded. “BLVR has reduced the severity of Nancy’s symptoms. That was our goal.”

“My experience has been good,” she said. “I am not off oxygen completely. But I can honestly say that I don’t get that shortness of breath that I used to get.”

By early next year, Nancy will be eligible to have the BLVR procedure on her left lung. She looks forward to it, and to breathing even easier than she is today.

For more information, go to https://www.blessinghealth.org/blvr