Nicole spent 20 years struggling with asthma – so she thought. An episode of The Doctors alerted her that her breathing problem might be something very serious. She credits the show with saving her life!
Nicole can’t remember a time in her life when she could breathe easily. As a child, she was diagnosed with asthma. “They put me on inhalers, steroids, nebulizers, in order to function for the day,” she says, but her symptoms got worse. She could barely perform daily tasks. “It was horrible to watch,” says her mother, Karen.
In 2015, her father, Anthony, was watching The Doctors when a guest described symptoms that sounded very familiar. “I was listening to a woman describe what she was experiencing, and instantly knew that was what Nicole had.”
Nicole watched the episode and said, “Oh my gosh, I have this!” She was her doctor, and tests confirmed what she already suspected: Nicole wasn’t asthmatic. She was suffering from subglottic stenosis. The condition, which causes extreme narrowing in the throat, is extremely dangerous – if Nicole didn’t have surgery, she might die in her sleep.
Surgery was scary, but as soon as Nicole woke up afterward she could tell her breathing was easier. Now, a few months later, she tells The Doctors, “I feel like a different person!” And, she adds, “I have tears in my eyes because without you I wouldn’t be here.”
ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork tells Nicole, “You’re the reason we do this show.” The Doctors is able to reach millions of people. He observes, “It also highlights something we talk about often the show. It’s not uncommon early in life to get stuck with a diagnosis you carry with you, and that diagnosis may not always be the correct one.” If you have continuing health problems in spite of diagnosis and treatment, don’t be afraid to seek another opinion!
Now Nicole breathes freely and can easily do activities that were impossible for her before. Surgeon Dr. Michael Pitman, who performed Nicole’s surgery, explains the difference between asthma and subglottic stenosis – the key symptoms to look for are breathing difficulties that don’t respond to conventional treatment, and breath that makes a whistling sound, known as “stridor.” “That you don’t get with asthma,” he notes.
Dr. Stork adds that asthma tends to produce wheezing while inhaling, whereas stridor occurs on exhaling as well.
Now that Nicole feels healthy, she has a “bucket list” of activities she’s never been able to enjoy. The Doctors have a little surprise to help her with one of them! Nicole has always wanted to cycle, and The Doctors have a bright-red gift bicycle for her to take home. “Get out there and embrace this young life of yours,” urges Dr. Stork.