Innovative Approach to Medicine Helps Find Solutions for Lilac

Lilac SecaurFor the Secaur family, a cold was more than the minor nuisance it is for most families; it was a life-threatening episode. Colds invariably led to an asthma attack and a race to the emergency room for three-year old Lilac; she had spent more than 100 nights in the hospital during the previous 18 months. Even on the best of days, Lilac was listless and struggled to breathe.

The Secaurs had seen pediatricians, pulmonologists, allergists and others near their home in Kentucky. They had even moved out of a moldy house on physician's advice. But no one could help Lilac get her breath back. Then the Secaurs learned about National Jewish Health and drove 1,100 miles hoping and praying for answers.


Last Hope and Option

"National Jewish Health was our last hope and our last option," said Lilac's mother, Kristin.

Lilac and her family spent two weeks at National Jewish Health, seeing a team of experts who evaluated every possible factor that might contribute to her severe asthma. Lilac received a pH probe to look for acid reflux, skin tests for allergies, a bronchoscopy to obtain tissue samples and to look for physical abnormalities in her airways, CT scans of her lungs and sinuses, a barium swallow test, psychological evaluations, pulmonary function tests, exercise tests and more.

"We've learned more about Lilac's lungs and allergies in two days here than in two years before," Kristin wrote in a blog after her second day at National Jewish Health. Each day added a new "piece of the puzzle" about her daughter's condition.


Team Approach

After the initial evaluations, the National Jewish Health team gathered at its weekly Plan of Care meeting to share their findings. Among other things, Lilac had severe acid reflux, a bacterial infection, allergies to two trees common in Kentucky, and exercise-induced asthma.

"There was no great Aha! moment for Lilac, no single thing that explained what was causing her so much trouble," said Professor of Pediatrics Joseph Spahn, MD. "We just did what we do for every patient; thoroughly evaluated her from a variety of perspectives. Then we pooled our knowledge, developed a treatment strategy that addressed her unique situation."

They began adjusting Lilac's medications, teaching the Secaur family how to monitor her disease, how to manage worsening asthma, and how to properly administer medications, as well as how to cope emotionally with such a difficult situation. A week later the team met again to evaluate Lilac's progress and to adjust her personalized treatment plan.


Healthy at Home

By the time the Secaur family headed back to Kentucky, Lilac was a happy, energetic girl who could run and play once again. She was no longer taking oral steroids and grew two inches in the first month back home. Then she got a cold. But Lilac was healthier this time, and the Secaurs knew much better how to care for her. She did not go to the hospital.

"We learned how to better manage Lilac's asthma," said Kristin. "We learned how to identify when she was in trouble, to properly administer her medication, combat her acid reflux through her diet, and to deal with her asthma as a family. I feel like I have been given a miracle."


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