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Jean Marie McCaan – Phrenic Nerve Surgery Testimonial

I am so blessed to have had the phrenic nerve surgery that Dr. Kaufman had performed on Friday, March 13th!

I have so much more energy and feel so much better! I sleep better as well. I have so much more energy during the day. No more yawning all day long for me, feeling like I would never make it through the work day, not being mentally sharp. I used to be so exhausted. I would not sleep well at all either. I would actually recline in my car during my lunch hour many days just to make it through the day. I rarely would cook dinner when I got home. I would just put a load of laundry in and not have the energy most days to fold it. That would be the extent of my energy. My husband did all of the cleaning and grocery shopping.

Now I am very active. I sleep very well and very sound so I feel rested in the morning. I am walking two miles per day outdoors or two miles on our elliptical machine, going to work, cooking dinner, cleaning and also helping my daughter a couple of nights a week with our first grandson born June 13th. I do our laundry and my daughter’s laundry as well to help her out. I go shopping and enjoy myself more! I have the energy and can breathe better to be intimate with my husband again which was so difficult for us when I wasn’t well. I feel like I am living again! Doing every day activities is so much easier and feeling great is such a blessing! And I have lost about 10 lbs. because I have more energy to cook so I can eat healthier and exercise! I feel so much healthier. I have also seen an improvement in my HDL, LDL, triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure. My resting heart rate is about 70! I have been focusing on cardio and plan to start weight training in mid-August. I never could begin to think of doing anything extra other than going to work. Now I am actually working to get in shape so I am much stronger and leaner. I would love to go back to school and take up a new hobby. I could never begin to think beyond just getting through my workday before the surgery.

My husband and I are on vacation in St. Petersburg, Florida. I would have not been able to be in the heat and humidity before. We have walked along the beach, been on the beach for about 6 hours today, walked quite a bit, visited the botanical gardens – getting a lot of exercise and being very active!

I did well on the flight from BWI to Atlanta and the flight from Atlanta to Tampa. However, coming back home I had trouble breathing on the flight from Tampa to Atlanta. It seems I only have trouble now with breathing when the air quality isn’t good or there are fumes in the air. I made it through the one-hour flight doing my pursed lip breathing and trying not to get anxious. I didn’t feel really great for about an hour or so but was much better once I had to board the flight from Atlanta to BWI. That flight was fine as the air quality was much better. (I think if I could have a small canister of oxygen to breath during those times of being in planes or in subways would be beneficial so I have access to healthier air that will not be such a strain on me. Or maybe I will not have a problem in the future as I get stronger.)

I make sure I get my rest and I am able to enjoy myself and be active all day! I could have never dreamed of taking this trip before the phrenic nerve surgery! Our son had earned a free trip at work for his job last year and had wanted me to go with him to Florida but I couldn’t go with him because of my health. I would never have been able to survive the heat and humidity and flights and being active prior to my phrenic nerve surgery this year. The heat and humidity made me feel like I was suffocating, like someone was holding a pillow over my head. I never had the energy to walk very far or to be outside in the heat and humidity for very long. I would wake up many nights suddenly feeling like I could not breathe. Then there were those anxiety attacks from waking up feeling like I couldn’t breathe or anxiety over going certain places or being outside or driving in traffic because of exhaust fumes or visiting someone’s home with candles lit and perfume smells or feeling like I just didn’t have the energy. My family doctor at one point prescribed anxiety medicine for a short time because I couldn’t seem to control this anxiety about not being able to breathe well. I would avoid going places and would not go anywhere without my husband other than to work. My pulmonologist encouraged me to go through pulmonary rehab and that helped me significantly control my anxiety and know my limitations so I wouldn’t do more than my body could handle. I don’t miss that at all! That seemed to be everyone’s answer – don’t do more than you should. ‘But I still have so much life to live’ was all I could think – I don’t want to slow down and just exist! I didn’t want to accept that I would be like this the rest of my life.

My breathing problem happened as a result of an epicardial cyst that was removed that was causing severe painful spasms in my chest for over 21/2 years; It took the doctor’s 21/2 years to find that the cyst was causing the spasms. There were several times my husband took me to the ER because we thought I was having a heart attack – that is how painful it would be. But no one seemed to know what was causing the spasms. My diastolic would go really high as well as my systolic. Finally an MRI and CT revealed the cyst. After the thoracic surgery to remove the epicardial cyst I had difficulty breathing well. I would wake up during the night suddenly feeling like I was suffocating. Many times I thought I was going to die because no one knew what was wrong with me or how to help me when I had these spasms. My husband would just try to talk to me and calm me down and hold me. We made several visits to the ER and was admitted twice but nothing was found. I was told by one pulmonologist that I was “just afraid to push myself” after the surgery, that I had to stop being afraid. It is difficult to not feel afraid when you can’t breathe as well as you had your entire life! I was told to get a personal trainer and work out to get stronger. Well I did exercise and had to be hospitalized for two days because my blood pressure soared from doing planks and exercises that my body just couldn’t handle. My personal trainer encouraged me to get yet another opinion about my health because he said something just didn’t seem right to him-seemed like my lungs weren’t working correctly. My gastro doctor also did tests and could tell that my esophagus wasn’t working the way it should to push food down into my stomach but also didn’t know what was causing the problem. My pulmonologist said he could only offer plication of the diaphragm but that would only make more room in my chest. To me it didn’t seem like it was worth going through the surgery because there was a good chance it would not make me feel much better. No one seemed to know what was wrong with me, or at least wouldn’t admit the thoracic surgery to remove the cyst could have caused this problem.

I almost gave up. I researched and researched for about two years. Then one day I saw Dr. Kaufman’s article but thought I may not be a candidate. After all, I was ‘functioning’. I went to see my pulmonologist again with the article about Dr. Kaufman’s procedure. He had not heard of Dr. Kaufman or the procedure and said he would look into it. In the meantime, I had several tests performed for my lung and heart functions. My pulmonologist looked into the procedure and referred me to a thoracic surgeon at Hershey Medical. This surgeon did not perform this procedure in the article but had offered to contact Dr. Kaufman with my test results to see if I was a candidate. After a short time, I received a call from Heather stating that I was a candidate! I was so thrilled! Dr. Kaufman conferenced with me on the phone, we set a date for the consultation and surgery. Everything was explained to my husband and me in detail. We decided to go forward with the surgery. It was the best decision for me! And I feel oh so much better after such a considerably short time of a little over four months!

I can’t thank Dr. Matthew Kaufman enough for helping me and giving me a second chance at living a fuller life! His staff – Dr. Bauer, Barbara, Ellen, Gina and Heather – has been so supportive and helpful during these past months as well! Daniel at Avery, the pacemaker company, is also very helpful and supportive.

I look forward to my one-year checkup with Dr. Kaufman so he can see how much better I am and how he has helped me so much! I have also given two doctors that were testing me prior to my phrenic nerve surgery the information about the phrenic nerve procedure so they can help their patients.


Jean Marie McCann