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Michael Pecha had been battling through chroninc obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for quite a while. The truck driver from Crest Hill said it definitely affected his work…and life in general.

“I couldn’t walk 20 feet without stopping to take a breath,” said Pecha, 64. “I was taking medicine, but it wasn’t doing much. Of course, I kept on smoking. I had smoked for some 40 years.”

But it all caught up with him on March 16, 2022, when he couldn’t breathe much at all. His supervisor at work told him his color looked gray. That day, Pecha would wind up in the hospital for more than two weeks, including five days of intubation, with COVID pneumonia.

The silver lining is that while hospitalized, Pecha was working with Dr. Kristopher McDonough, a critical care pulmonologist and Co-Medical Director of the Midwest Institute for Lung at Silver Cross, who helped him recover to get back to work. During a follow-up appointment later that year, Dr. McDonough had a suggestion for his patient.

“Dr. McDonough said there was a procedure that could be a life-saver for me. He told me to take a couple weeks to think about it. I said, if it’s a life-saver, why wait two weeks? Let’s do it.”

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People with COPD/emphysema often struggle to catch their breath while doing everyday tasks because the damaged parts of their lungs can no longer release trapped air and have become overinflated.

The procedure would be installing a Zephyr® Valve, one-way valves that allow trapped air to be exhaled from the lungs and prevent more air from becoming trapped.

“One test I had to take was inhaling deeply, and then seeing how long it takes to get all the air out exhaling deeply. The normal person takes eight seconds. I took 18 seconds,” said Pecha.

Prospective Zephyr patients must quit smoking at least four months before the procedure. But Pecha quit following the health scare the previous March.

Dr. McDonough scheduled the procedure for February 6 at Silver Cross. The minimally invasive procedure takes about an hour.

“We got to Silver Cross around 7:30 a.m. that day, and I was in a room by 11 a.m.”

Zephyr patients stay in the hospital three nights for observation, but Pecha said he felt better that first evening following the procedure.

“They were walking me around later that day. I still had to stop now and then, but it was after walking farther than I had before.”

Once released, Pecha was on oxygen 24/7 while recovering at home. And he had to continue his COPD medications.

Five weeks after surgery, Pecha was cleared to return to work, using a portable oxygen bottle only while driving. Now, he uses one only while exercising during pulmonary rehabilitation at Silver Cross.

“People who see me now tell me how good I look, and that they can see the difference in the color in my face. This procedure really was a life-saver. It’s the best thing that could have happened to me.”

For more information about lung care at Silver Cross or to learn about our early lung CT scan, call (815) 300-LUNG (5864) or visit

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