IAOBP | Bronchiectasis and asthma – Karen - IAOBP

Karen reverses 3 years of lung damage in 3 months

When Karen Davidson was diagnosed with a serious lung condition in 2004 she was devastated. The self-made businesswoman was only 39. She’d just met new partner Alessandro. And the couple were desperate to have a child together – as company for Karen’s daughter Atlanta.But doctors warned Karen that getting pregnant could be a big strain on her health. A CT scan revealed Karen was suffering with

  • diffuse panbronchiolitis
  • an inherited lack of the protective protein Alpha-1 Antitripsin
  • congential bronchiecstasis – a condition where the larger tubes in the lungs become inflamed, weak and prone to collapsing.

Her lung disease was progressive, doctors warned her. And she would probably be too ill to work within 10 years.

“They said I had quite bad damage to the lungs,” says Karen. “I was very miserable after that.”

Check up shows lungs on the mend

karen-photo-150x150Fast forward 6 years. And Karen’s lungs are already on the mend after only 3 months of daily Buteyko practice. An annual chest check up in September 2010 showed her lung function is better than it was in 2007. That’s  despite Karen having daughter Aurora, in 2007.

“I always dread the hospital visit as I am scared they’ll tell me I am deteriorating,” says Karen.

“I had comprehensive lung function tests where you sit in a little box. And my lungs are better than they were 3 years ago, which is fabulous! I can’t tell you how happy this has made me. It is a great feeling to be told you are better.”

Karen’s overall lung function is now about 60% (up from 50 something in 2007). And her small airways have scored 20% – compared with only 12% in 2007 – according to the tests at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London.

“OK my lungs are crap, and they function a lot less than a normal person,” says Karen. “But it is so encouraging and I am feeling so much better.”

Karen’s chest specialist has encouraged her to keep practising the method.

“The doctor was delighted with my progress and the fact that I am now doing Buteyko practice and he seems all for it,” says Karen.

Sharper memory

In bronchiectasis, the weakened, inflamed tubes trap phlegm. This becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. And infections can spread to the air sacs, reducing lung function.

Karen says her Butekyo practice has helped her to:

  • Get more energy and run up the stairs a lot better
  • Think more clearly and remember things
  • Resist chest infections (just 2 in winter 2010-11 instead of the usual 3).

Karen found it concentrating hardgoing because of the pain and draining effect of bronchiectasis.

“When your memory is very, very bad it affects everything,” she says. “I was quite worried because I couldn’t remember where I’d left my keys and I kept missing appointments.”

But within two weeks of doing Buteyko Karen felt much calmer.

“I noticed how clear my mind was. It’s much sharper now. It’s almost like getting a new brain,” she says.

Easier breathing

Her breathing is more relaxed too. “After practice my lungs feel like balloons that have been blown up. They feel less obstructed,” she says.

And she’s having fewer flare ups so she needs fewer antibiotics. Each flare up lasts about 3 weeks and needs at least two courses of pills – she says. And the Azithromycin pills make her feel dizzy and cause ringing in her ears.

“It’s horrible. When I’m ill I feel like my lungs are on fire, all round the rim, every time I breathe,” she says.

“I’ve only had 2 flare ups in October, November and December. Fingers crossed I won’t get another one this winter.”

Karen’s message to you – “just do it”

Karen admits she finds it hard to squeeze her Buteyko practice into her working day – especially around Christmas time when family life becomes hectic.

“I know I should make Buteyko practice my number 1 priority because it is helping me so much. I’m going to give it another big push again in 2011,” she says

If you’re thinking about starting the Buteyko method Karen says:

“Don’t Dither, Just do it. It’s gonna be tough and you may have some cleansing reactions but it’ll make your life better. Martha is a totally dedicated teacher. She’s very tenacious and she’s there for you every step of the way.”

Karen’s health timeline


3 – diagnosed with asthma. Wheezing.

12 – frequent asthma attacks

17 – yearly hospitalisation every October until age 32

20s – eczema and asthma flare ups from certain foods such as potatoes

31 – pregnant with daughter Atlanta – very wheezy

36 – Pneumonia bout. Karen gives up smoking for good. Ongoing chest infections and large amounts of phlegm in lungs.

39 Diagnosed with congenital (from birth) bronchiecstasis

42 Pregnant with daughter Aurora

45 Started learning Buteyko. Rolls back lung function by 3 years.

Want to improve your obstructive lung disease?

The LearnButeyko team has helped dozens of people manage and reverse symptoms of COPD, emphysema and bronchiectasis. It’s tough work. But it can make a huge difference to your quality of life.