Cary Quarles' Story
Cary Quarles recalls his year living on the campus of National Jewish Health in 1971 as "the best year of my life." That year, Cary transformed from a 12-year-old boy from Virginia who had spent most of his youth struggling to breathe to a teenager who could finally enjoy being a kid because his asthma was under control.
Children's Treatment Center
Cary, now 52, was one of hundreds of children with severe asthma who sought the care of the Children's Treatment Center at National Jewish Health, a 119-bed residential program for children with a variety of lung and cardiac diseases. The children occupied the newly renovated B'nai B'rith Building, where physicians, nurses and counselors were on staff 24 hours a day.
Cary's mother discovered the Children's Treatment Center while researching care for him, the middle son of five children. Soon, she and Cary's father had packed up the car and headed across the country to Denver, where Cary would stay "with an amazing group of kids, nurses, counselors and doctors until the next summer of '72."
"I didn't even know where Colorado was on the map," Cary said. "I was concerned there wouldn't be any snow."
The children lived in two-bed and four-bed rooms with others close to their ages. By the time Cary arrived here, National Jewish Health had a world-class staff to treat the children, including pediatric allergy fellows, a pediatric cardiologist and a pediatric psychiatrist.
At the Children's Treatment Center in the 1960s and 1970s, the children soon realized they couldn't easily get out of school by claiming to be sick. In fact, Cary still fondly remembers Mr. Rose, "a wonderful man who everybody loved," who taught fifth and sixth grade on the fourth floor of the B'nai B'rith Building.
The children also had counselors and social workers available to help with problems rising from long-term hospitalization and separation from the family. Children would travel home only once a year during the holiday season. One of Cary's most sobering memories of his year here was when his close friend, John, did not return from his holiday break at home in Montana. John died from a severe asthma attack because paramedics couldn't reach him during a severe snow storm.
"At a very young age, we all knew that what we had was pretty rough," he said.
Time for Play
The memory of John's death is balanced with snowball fights with counselors, camping trips in the Rocky Mountains, walks to the nearby science museum and City Park, and goals scored at games playing for the school's traveling soccer team.
Cary's Life Today
Today, Cary lives in Richmond, VA, with his wife. He still sees a pulmonologist for allergies and asthma, but once he discovered what treatments enabled him to breathe, he started cycling. Now, he can ride his road bike 100 miles in four hours, and he never goes anywhere without it.
This summer, he plans to take his bike to Colorado where he will visit the National Jewish Health campus to commemorate the 40 years since his parents first dropped him off at the door of B'nai B'rith, or BB as many faculty, staff and patients affectionately call the building. He is looking forward to seeing the campus that still evokes so many good memories.
"There are moments ever since when I'll hear something or smell something, like a Salisbury steak or a Ruben sandwich, and it will remind me of that year on BB2."
Helping Children Find Hope – Then and Now
Research and Pediatrics
In the 1960s and 1970s, researchers at National Jewish Health were making significant advances in understanding the causes and treatments of asthma. In 1962, researchers discovered Immunoglobulin E, "the allergy antibody," which is more prevalent in people with asthma and allergies. In the 1970s, National Jewish Health was among the first to advocate that asthma patients should take medication daily, rather than only when attacks occur. And in keeping with the institution's history of advancements in personalized medicine, researchers identified ways to individualize asthma treatment to the patient's needs with the use of theophylline and other asthma drugs.
National Jewish Health has provided education and support to young patients for most of its history, beginning in 1907 with the opening of the Denver Sheltering Home for the children of tuberculosis patients. Today, our Pediatric Day Program offers patients and families, many of whom travel from outside Colorado, a "home base" on the second floor of the May Building. There, they check in each day and review their schedule of appointments with speech therapists, rehabilitation therapists, dieticians, psychosocial clinicians, immunologists and pulmonologists. Our campus also is home to Morgridge Academy, a free K-8 school for about 85 chronically ill children and the only school of its kind in the United States.
Learn more about how you can support patients at National Jewish Health