Marita Dowell and Pat Schoenig are healthy, active tennis club teammates who suddenly began suffering the same chronic shortness of breath.

"The worst problem that I had with the breathing was that I was uncomfortable 24/7," Schoenig said.

"It was completely debilitating when the breathing became an issue. I couldn't take a deep breath, which affected everything," explained Dowell.

Both women had partial diaphragm paralysis, often resulting from shoulder surgery, as Dowell had, or heart surgery.

Dr. Matthew Kaufman, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Plastic Surgery Center in New Jersey, developed a new, minimally invasive way to treat it.

Kaufman reconstructs the phrenic nerve, the nerve that helps control the movement of the diaphragm. He enters the lower neck and implants another nerve taken from the leg.

"The procedure is intended to restore function to a muscle that's paralyzed," Kaufman said. "The muscle we're talking about is the muscle of breathing."

"It's a miracle," said Schoenig. "I can hike now. I can ride a bike, and I don't lose my breath."

"Now, I'm relaxed. I can do things," Dowell detailed. "I can play with the kids. I can play tennis. I'm thrilled to be hitting a ball. I don't care if I win."

Both ladies are now literally breathing easier.

Kaufman said his office now receives about 300 inquiries annually from those with diaphragm paralysis across the country.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary and an in-depth interview with the doctor