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Better Than the Best: A Hospital Like No Other

By: Bettyann Slatten

Bettyann SlattenA barking seal. That is what I sounded like – coughing and wheezing all day, all night. I hated to be around people, and I am certain they did not care to be around me.

My breathing troubles started in childhood when I often had colds and sinus infections. As I got into my 30s and 40s, I started getting pneumonia and bronchitis, with weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath. I went to Washington University in St. Louis – which has very good doctors – but they were not able to figure out what was going on in the 15 minutes they spent with me.

My mother-in-law said I had to see the lung experts. She said I had to go to National Jewish Health. When I arrived, I was fascinated at how the hospital was run. I have been to some of the best hospitals in the country, including Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health, and going to National Jewish Health was eye opening.

When I checked in, I met my patient ambassador and received my schedule to see several doctors. Not one was late. I had 60 to 90 minutes with each doctor, and when they stepped into the room, they knew my file. Each doctor I saw had spoken with the others; I didn’t have to repeat my story over and over again, like I had at other hospitals.

Dr. Anthony Gerber, my pulmonologist, and Dr. Miranda Ku, my gastroenterologist, worked alongside a cardiologist and an infectious disease doctor. They did not simply treat my symptoms, they took a whole-person approach, investigating how my condition was affecting every part of me. They ran tests that in all my time at hospitals, I had never heard of.

The tests ultimately showed that my coughing and shortness of breath was caused by a misshapen windpipe and vocal chords that don’t close properly when I breathe. Since the diagnosis, I have improved 50 percent with throat exercises and new medications, but that wasn’t the end of the story for Dr. Gerber and my National Jewish Health team. They continue to look for an even better solution, while working with my doctors in St. Louis.

There are many people who suffer like I did. I eagerly tell them there is a place to go where the doctors, nurses and staff are caring, are there to listen and think out of the box. They spend more than 15 minutes with each patient. At National Jewish Health, they find the answers, not just treat the symptoms.

It takes a lot of commitment and resources for National Jewish Health to conduct groundbreaking research while still providing such a high level of care to each patient. Through sharing my story and supporting charity care at National Jewish Health, I help ensure others can receive the same incredible care that I received.


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