LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville woman struggling with COPD said she owes her quality of life to a simple procedure that didn't even require an incision.

Tommi Richardson was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at the age of 55 after smoking for 20 years. Dr. Umair Gauhar at UofL Health said he'd never seen anyone's lungs in such bad shape at her age.

Richardson was so sick that she was put on the lung transplant list. Instead, Gauha treated her with Zephyr Endobronchial Valves, which are four tiny valves placed in the airways to block off the diseased parts of the lungs. Once inserted, the valves prevent air from getting trapped in the diseased area of the lung and let healthier parts take in more air.

Richardson said the procedure was a game-changer for her.

"I'm able to exercise every day," she said. "I run around. I can do my own grocery shopping and housework. Before, just walking up and down my hallway was a struggle. So the quality of life has been amazing."

She's lost 40 pounds and no longer needs oxygen 24/7.

November is COPD Awareness Month.

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