Jennifer Champy's Story
Jennifer Champy, a registered nurse from Columbia, S.C., spent much of her childhood and adulthood in hospitals battling multiple conditions. She finally came to National Jewish Health, an experience that “profoundly changed” her life.
As a result of frequent respiratory infections, Jennifer had been placed on life-support 14 times and required oxygen therapy 24-hours a day. At the age of 29, she was diagnosed with atypical cystic fibrosis. Because she did not have the classic symptoms of the disease, she received changing diagnoses over the years, ranging asthma to a mycobacterial lung infection. Jennifer just wanted answers.
“I knew about the good reputation of National Jewish Health from my time as a nurse, and I wanted to go there,” said Jennifer.
A year prior to coming to here, she began corresponding with Jerry A. Nick, MD, an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine. He is also Director of Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program at National Jewish Health, the largest adult cystic fibrosis clinic in the nation.
“He was like no other doctor I have had in my life,” she said. “I had never seen him, yet he was so willing to help me.”
When she arrived at National Jewish, doctors determined that she did have a mycobacterial infection, but it was not the cause of her lung problems.
“I had been taking intravenous antibiotics for ten long months,” said Jennifer. “The doctors released me from doing them.”
She also saw Dr. Nick, who was concerned because Jennifer’s lung function didn’t match her need for high amounts of oxygen.
“I credit my improved health status to his compassion, skill, knowledge and determination to get to the bottom of my health issues,” she said.
Dr. Nick teamed with National Jewish Health cardiologist Darlene Kim, MD, who discovered a hidden condition – a hole in Jennifer’s heart.
Jennifer underwent surgery to repair the hole, and it improved her health dramatically.
“I just never knew that you could breathe like that,” she said. “I only need to be on oxygen at night. You can’t imagine what a difference it makes – you’re not gasping for air. Now I can go to the beach and swim in the ocean.”
She also benefited from the comprehensive approach to care at National Jewish Health, seeing experts for vocal cord dysfunction and gastrointestinal issues. Dr. Nick continues to work with Jennifer’s doctors in South Carolina on her care.
“The way that everything is set up at National Jewish Health – very few centers can compete,” she said. “National Jewish Health saved my life.”