Quilts are often given to celebrate a life change such as a marriage or the birth of a baby. Marilyn Jackson’s latest quilt celebrates much more: a life saved.
On Jan. 30, she presented UC Davis cardiothoracic surgeon David Cooke with a quilt she made for his 3½ year old daughter, Audrey.
“Dr. Cooke saved my husband’s life,” said Marilyn. “I know it is impossible to truly thank him for that, but sharing my talent with someone he loves as much I love my husband is one way to try.”
Last year, Marilyn’s husband, Jim Jackson, had two procedures known as lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) to treat his emphysema. The progressive disease, which is most often attributed to smoking, causes walls of air sacs to break down, reducing lung function and oxygen throughout the body. Those with emphysema experience continuously reduced breathing capacity and mobility.
“I was in denial for a long time, so the disease was diagnosed for me in its later stage,” said Jim, a retired railroad foreman. “On good days, I felt like there was a paper bag on my head. On bad days, it felt like a plastic bag. I mostly sat and watched television with an oxygen tank.”
During LVRS, damaged lung tissue is removed, helping the remaining lung tissue work more efficiently and increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood.
Even though there are few other effective treatments for emphysema and no cure, LVRS is not recommended for every patient. Those whose disease is concentrated in the upper parts of their lungs and who participate in pulmonary rehabilitation, stick with a strict medication regimen and do not smoke are considered the best candidates.
“Jim was a poster child for the surgery, and we’ve both been really pleased with his outcomes,” said Cooke, a specialist in surgical treatments for lung disease. “Today, I see him less in my clinic and more at community events, speaking about his experiences and the importance of lung health.”
Cooke cautioned that even for good candidates, LVRS has post-surgical risks. One of Jim’s lungs collapsed due to an air leak following his second surgery, requiring a longer hospital stay and recovery time than expected.
“Air leaks are common with lung surgery, but our excellent nursing, surgical and critical-care teams anticipated and rescued him from that complication while preventing others,” said Cooke.
Today, the Jacksons say that the surgeries were worth it.
“Dr. Cooke not only gave me back my life, he gave me back my life as I knew it,” said Jim, who watched his mother’s health deteriorate until her death from emphysema in the 1980s. “I figured that would be me, too. Instead, here I am, more active than I was before the surgery. I still need oxygen, but not as much. And I never feel anymore like I have a bag on my head.”