1 in 20 people with asthma have severe asthma

"Bronchial thermoplasty helped my severe asthma"

Michael Keenan’s life was transformed by a bronchial thermoplasty for his severe asthma.

As a child

"I was diagnosed with severe asthma when I was five and as a child I can remember taking up to four puffs of my preventer inhaler and 12 puffs of reliever inhaler every day. But even with all that medication I couldn't do any sports and the slightest physical activity would leave me out of breath."

"My asthma was triggered by loads of things including dust, dogs, cats and stress. At least once a day, I'd have a mild attack lasting up to an hour when I would be gasping for breath. About five or six times a month I'd have a severe attack, where I'd have to go to hospital."

"Between the ages of 12 and 14, I missed a lot of school because I went to the hospital to have steroid injections three times a week. The medication had lots of side effects - my mouth was constantly dry, I had very little appetite and I often felt hyperactive and unable to sit still or concentrate."

"When I was 18, my brother, Joseph, who was seven years older than me, died from an asthma attack. As a family we were devastated. And I was terrified that I'd die from an asthma attack too."

Time off work

"When I first got a job, I worked in a factory that made children's baby clothes. I didn't realise it at the time, but looking back it's obvious that the tiny particles of material in the air were causing me to have really severe asthma symptoms. I'd need nine or ten days off work a month. Plus I needed time off for appointments. I often felt exhausted because when the asthma symptoms were bad my sleep was affected."

"When I left the factory and started an office job, 20 years ago, my symptoms improved, although I still needed lots of medication and I still had a few minor attacks daily. I controlled them by taking my Ventolin inhaler."

Pioneering treatment

"In 2005, I visited the asthma nurse at my local surgery and she asked me if I would like to volunteer to be monitored for the Asthma Research Unit at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow. I kept a diary where I recorded my medication, eating habits and peak flow measurements. And every month I took part in controlled exposure to asthma irritant tests, and had lung function tests."

"During this time, a doctor asked me if I would like to be put forward for a new procedure called bronchial thermoplasty. In people with severe asthma like mine, the muscles in the walls of the airways tend to get thicker over time. When they contract if exposed to a trigger such as dust, air cannot get through, leading to asthma symptoms, such as feelings of breathlessness, tightness in the chest and wheezing."

"During the procedure, a long flexible tube is put down into the lungs using a tiny camera and then the extra muscle in the airways is heated so it can no longer contract. All the potential side effects were explained, but I was keen to try it. Before I could have the procedure, though, I had to be monitored for almost a year to make sure I was suitable."

"In June 2006, I had the first of three procedures over six weeks. Each procedure lasts about 30 minutes. I was sedated with a local anaesthetic so I was conscious but relaxed. My nose, throat and airways were numb, so I couldn't feel any pain when the doctor threaded the tube into my mouth and down into my lungs. It was uncomfortable and I thought I might choke. Then I fell asleep."

"My throat felt uncomfortable when I woke up, but my breathing already felt slightly better. By the time I had finished the three courses, it had improved dramatically."

Taking less medication

"I still have an asthma review with my GP once a year and thanks to the dramatic improvement in my symptoms he's cut my medication right down - now I only take one puff of preventer inhaler before bed and have virtually stopped using my reliever inhaler. I don't ever forget to take my inhaler because I never take my improved health for granted and I know that it's preventing any symptoms coming back. A few years back, I became complacent and when I had a party, I allowed people to smoke in my house. Two hours later I was in A&E because the cigarette smoke triggered a really bad asthma attack. That's not a lesson you forget in a hurry."

Better quality of life

"For years I have had no time off work for asthma-related illness. Tests show that my lung capacity has improved by 30 per cent. I'm now able to play golf and run 10K, which I wouldn't have been able to do ten years ago. I have the confidence to go out in all kinds of weather without worrying about having attacks and have recently started having holidays abroad to really hot countries without worrying that the heat will affect my health."

"One of the things I would never have dreamt of doing before the procedure was cutting my mother's very large lawn as this would have caused a severe attack. Now I look forward to cutting it!"

"Perhaps one of the biggest changes to my quality of life is that I now have a good appetite and I sleep much better. It's an understatement to say that the procedure has changed my life. I only wish it had been around when my brother was alive."

Last updated August 2015

Next review due August 2018