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Finding the right care for improved quality of life

Sometimes it takes a village to get the quality care you want, even if part of that village is a 16-hour train ride away from where you live.

Tom Montgomery

Tom Montgomery, of Cambridge, Illinois, has dealt with a complicated form of progressive interstitial lung disease (ILD) for more than four years. When it started, he would wake up most mornings with violent coughing episodes that lasted up to 20 minutes and wreaked havoc on his body, causing back pain and hernias.

His local physicians struggled to make a diagnosis and to form a clear treatment plan. After being seen by another clinic for a time, his friend suggested he visit National Jewish Health due to its ranking as the top pulmonary hospital in the country.

So Tom boarded an Amtrak® train and rode the rails to Denver, where he met with a team that included four doctors in the areas of pulmonology, gastroenterology, cardiology and rheumatology.

“I was very impressed because they were very thorough,” said Tom. “They coordinated so well together and put me through a battery of tests to leave no stone unturned.” 

The doctors helped clarify his diagnosis and changed his treatment plan, which included switching his medications to ones with less potential for long-term side effects. As his condition progressed, his doctors were able to offer new emerging therapies to help keep his lung disease stable.

“Tom is definitely an advocate for his own health and likes the fact that we have a multidisciplinary team to look at his condition,” said Rebecca Keith, MD, a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health and part of Tom’s team. “We’ve been able to work with his local doctors as his condition evolved and gave him access to state-of-the-art medications and treatment to slow the progression of his disease as long as possible.” 

He has now returned twice for follow-ups, each time assisted by ambassadors with the hospital’s out-of-state program. These professionals act as the main liaisons between patients and the hospital to make sure each patient’s visit is as smooth and efficient as possible. In Tom’s case, they are pivotal in ensuring he is able to see his four doctors in short time spans, so he doesn’t have to stay away from home too long.

He says his coughing has improved and the train rides are worth it because of the confidence he has in his doctors.

“I come for a better chance for a longer life and a better quality of life for a longer period,” said Tom. “I believe the chances are, if you go to National Jewish Health, you will increase the odds of that happening.”


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