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Procedure offers a breath of fresh air
Yuba City resident LaRetta Fisher, an enthusiastic Sutter County teacher with a history of asthma, has spent most of her life catching her breath.
But after undergoing a surgical procedure last year to dramatically improve her condition, Fisher now spends much of her breath catching up on life.
"It's completely life-changing for me," Fisher said Monday.
Fisher, 31, was born with a severe case of asthma that progressively worsened as she grew older. Since childhood, she has taken a myriad medications in an attempt to remedy the problem. But nothing worked.
"When a new drug came out," she said, "I got put on it."
Her asthma-linked problems persisted in her adult life, as well. At one point in college, Fisher rode her bicycle to school and collapsed inside the classroom. The instructor dialed 911.
"It definitely held me back a ton," she said.
Fisher eventually learned of bronchial thermoplasty, a surgical treatment for severe asthma.
The procedure, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Admini-stration only three years ago, is performed in three phases and consists of heating and reducing the amount of muscle tissue along the airways of the lungs.
Although she had trouble having her insurance cover the thermoplasty, Fisher decided to go for it anyway. Her first surgery was at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View on Aug. 3, 2012. A year later, she was able to participate in the Color Run in Sacramento, a 5k race.
Sarah Petersen, Fisher's longtime friend and colleague from Yuba City, said the procedure has allowed Fisher to continue doing the things she loves.
"She's never let (asthma) stop her from doing stuff," Petersen said, "but she doesn't have to push as hard."
Since her surgery, Fisher has gone skydiving, taken surfing lessons, kayaked on the Truckee River and participated in a variety of runs and marathons. She has done it all while working as a teacher for the deaf and hearing-impaired in Sutter County.
Fisher's mother, Juanita, said her daughter's condition has improved greatly after the surgery.
"The things she does now, she couldn't even begin to do before the surgery," Juanita Fisher said. "So it's been a major change."
Although she still uses an inhaler and takes other medication, LaRetta Fisher said her insurance pays significantly less in medical bills.
Most importantly, however, she wants those with a similar condition to know the procedure can help.
"I want people to realize how great of a procedure it is and how it changed my life," she said.
CONTACT reporter Griffin Rogers at 749-4783. Find him on Facebook at /ADgriffinrogers or on Twitter at @ADgriffinrogers.