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'I literally had no fight left in me' White Cloud man thankful for lung valve that 'saved his life'

Posted at 2:48 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 09:54:58-04

WHITE CLOUD, Mich. — A man from White Cloud is back to work and spending time with his grand kids these days; two things he didn’t think he’d get to do this year.

After going into respiratory failure back in November, Paul Hitts learned he was a candidate for a device that’s only been around for three years. He calls the choice life-changing.

“I literally had no fight left in me. It was a full-time job just trying to breathe,” Hitts told FOX 17 via Zoom.

It was a struggle to survive that Hitts really started to feel about a year ago. He was diagnosed with COPD back in 2017 after smoking for decades, but 2020 is when everything changed.

Hitts said, “I was in a bad, bad way. I ended up in the hospital multiple times.”

After one of those times, Doctors wanted to put Hitts on the list for a lung transplant, but he decided to ask again about an option he’d already been researching.

He said, “I was hunting for different COPD options, you know medications, or anything to help and then the Zephyr valves came up.”

Zephyr Endobronchial valves were approved by the FDA in 2018 to help treat severe cases of COPD when medications and other treatments aren’t working.

Dr. Gus Cumbo MD, the Director of Interventional Pulmonology at Spectrum Health explained just how prevalent the condition is.

Dr. Cumbo said, “We have 25 million Americans that have some sort of COPD whether it is emphysema or bronchitis.”

He said that the endobronchial valves are inserted into parts of the lungs that aren’t working efficiently.

“In a way, we funnel the air and the oxygen from areas that are not able to take up on it and use it, to areas that work better for patients to have some of the relief to go about their lives,” Dr. Cumbo said.

The procedure is minimally invasive, which can help patients bounce back quickly.

Dr. Cumbo added, “There’s no cuts, there’s no surgery, there’s no bleeding.This is a procedure that gets done in half an hour.”

Dr. Cumbo was the one who performed the operation on Hitts back in January, 2021 and now, he says he has his life back.

Hitt said, “It’s a night and day difference just being able to work, be outside, fresh air, doing all the things that I love to do.”

He said he’s most appreciative of the time he’s getting back with his family that was robbed because of COVID-19 and his weakened immune system and lung issues.

“I’ve got 16 grand kids and that’s one of the things I live for, is our weekends out here playing ball,” he said.

It’s those little moments Hitt’s is grateful for all thanks to his team of doctors.

He said, “Without them, I honestly don’t think I would be here today.”

Spectrum Health has performed 40 operations with the Zephyr valve out of 200 patients evaluated.

Both Hitts and Dr. Cumbo will be speaking at a free webinar tomorrow night for patients and providers to learn about the procedure.

It starts at 7:00 pm.

You can register by clicking this linkor emailing

You can learn more about the procedure and find a center near you by visiting this website.