Healthcare Hero - Pulmonologist Dr. Warren Tamamoto

Dr. Warren Tamamoto

. - Asthma patient gets a new lease on life from 2015 Healhcare Hero, Pulmonologist Dr. Warren Tamamoto at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center.

"Two years ago, I couldn't breathe and I was very restricted to activity, movement and socializing wasn't in the realm of anything," said Jennifer Purcell. "I just felt like a prisoner."

Purcell's lifelong battle with asthma had finally reached a tipping point when she came to see Dr. Warren Tamamoto, chief of pulmonology at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center.

"I would have a hard time walking out from the house out to the mailbox. I couldn't do the laundry. I couldn't walk from the couch to the kitchen without having to stop. And I'd have to have a rescue inhaler right outside the shower because when I got out, I was out of breath and I couldn't breathe."

And it was affecting her ability to enjoy her family.

"I didn't want my grandchildren growing up remembering their grandmother always being sick and not being able to participate." Purcell lamented, "Can't go to the beach. Can't go to a restaurant. Couldn't play with them outside. That wasn't the legacy I wanted to leave."

Purcell saw a television advertisement for a procedure called Bronchial Thermoplasty that would eventually help set her free.

She asked Dr. Tamamoto if he could perform the procedure on her that uses heat to reduce the size of airway muscles that are often enlarged and constricted with asthma.

"It was a procedure that was not available at the time," said Dr. Tamamoto. "It's one that only one group had tried here in Hawaii. So, it takes a while for some of the newer procedures, especially something like Bronchial Thermoplasty, where it's not very clear whether anyone has ever done that before."

After a lot of research, screening and training, Dr. Tamamoto performed the procedure on her. Purcell said the three required treatments spread over a couple of months gave, her a new lease on life.

"He's like the mechanic that took care of the vehicle," smiled Purcell. "I could never be more thankful. He is my hero. He is my angel."

Purcell is now moving and doing things she hasn't done in years. She can briskly walk the halls of the hospital, a place she said she now visits, rather than stays.

"There was a time when I could not walk that glass hallway without being out of breath," Purcell reflected. "I would be short winded, beet red and just panting for dear life and I'd need to have my inhaler or I would have to just stop and rest."

Now, her grandkids have to keep up with her. She spent a recent weekend with them learning how to skateboard.

Dr. Tamamoto stressed that not all asthma patients will meet the eligibly requirements for the Bronchial Thermoplasty procedure and noted that not all the results will vary. He said a new study showed the benefits of the procedure were expected to last at least five years.

"I'm just very happy. So happy for her that she's had this outcome," he said.

It's not a cure though and Purcell is still prescribed daily use of her inhalers, but she says Dr. Tamamoto saved her life.

Tamamoto is appreciative but modest regarding Purcell's nomination of him for this year's Healthcare Heroes recognition.

"I think it's again one of those, just happened to be the right patient, the right person at the right time," he said. Tamamoto says many people were involved.

"It's a nice honor and I'm happy to accept it for all of our clinic."

“Thank you for listening,” said Purcell to Dr. Tamamoto. “Thank you for your patience. Thank you for knowing that there was something out there that would help me and just thank you for being there, You were at the right place and the right time. Dr. Tamamoto is my hero,” exclaimed Purcell.