Bernard and Barbara Swanekamp have a lifetime worth of memories. They've been married fifty-six years.
"He's my best friend," Barbara Swanekamp, Bernard's wife, told Ivanhoe.
But after a lifetime of smoking, Bernard has the chronic lung disease, COPD.
"It restricts my lungs. I don't like doing this, but if this is the way I have to live, then this is the way I have to live," Bernard Swanekamp told Ivanhoe.
But life has been easier the past year thanks to the lung flute.
"Usually I wind up in the hospital one or two times a year in the wintertime. Last winter, there was nothing," Bernard said.
Some people with COPD have excess mucus in their lungs. When patients blow into the flute, sound waves are sent down the airways, mobilizing that mucus. Studies show using it twice a day, improves lung congestion and other COPD symptoms.
"It helps with clearance of the mucus and essentially, then they feel better the rest of the day," Sanjay Sethi, MD, Professor of Medicine & Chief of Pulmonary at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and staff physician with the VA Western New York Healthcare System, told Ivanhoe.
It may also help protect against potentially fatal respiratory illnesses like pneumonia.
"There were patients who would come to me all the time and they say, 'Listen, once I clear the mucus, I feel better,'" Dr. Sethi said.
Bernard relies on the flute.
"It saves me a lot of trips to the hospital, I'll tell you that. This thing has made a world of difference in my life. It really has," Bernard explained.
"When he feels better, I feel better," Barbara said.
The lung flute is FDA approved. Insurance typically covers most of the cost, but if you'd rather pay out of pocket the lung flute and a six month supply of reeds only runs about 50 dollars. A doctor's prescription is needed to get one.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a cluster of lung diseases that block airflow when exhaling, making it very difficult to breathe. There are two main conditions that make up COPD: chronic asthmatic bronchitis and emphysema. Many people have both. Chronic asthmatic bronchitis causes narrowing of the airways that lead to the lungs and inflammation, making the patient wheeze and cough. Emphysema damages the tiny air sacs in the lungs. It gradually destroys the inner walls of the air sac clusters, reducing the amount of surface area available to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. Shortness of breath will occur because the chest wall muscles have to work harder to exhale. Most COPD is a result from long-term smoking. Damage to the lungs can't be reversed. So, treatment aims to control symptoms and minimize further damage. (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)
Symptoms don't appear until there is a great deal of lung damage. Patients with COPD are also likely to experience exacerbations when symptoms worsen over time. Symptoms will vary because there are different lung conditions that form COPD. Most people will have at least one, but usually more than one, of these symptoms: shortness of breath, chronic cough, wheezing, and chest tightness. Complications can occur with COPD; respiratory infections, high blood pressure, heart problems, and depression. (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)
Since there is no cure for COPD, there are various treatment options to reduce the risk of complications and exacerbations. The only way to keep COPD from getting worse is to quit smoking. Doctors will prescribe medications as well. Bronchodilators help relieve coughing and shortness of breath. There are inhaled steroids that can reduce airway inflammation to help patients breathe. However, prolonged use of inhaled steroids can weaken bones and increase risk of cataracts, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Oxygen therapy can be recommended for those who don't have enough oxygen in their blood. Then there are pulmonary rehabilitation programs that combine education, exercises, nutrition advice, and counseling. Surgery is always an option for people with severe emphysema who do not get the help they need from medications. Finally, there is a recent device that is different than all the other treatment options. It is the only product that uses sound vibration to stimulate the body's natural mucus-clearing system. It is called the Lung Flute. It's a reusable, plastic device that is non-invasive and drug free. Clinical tests have proven that the Lung Flute is capable of breaking up mucus in the lungs, making it effective for diagnostic use and therapy. This technology is based on low-frequency acoustic waves that are produced when it is blown into. Unlike other technology, this device reaches into the lower airways and lung parenchyma to clear secretions deep in the lungs.
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