Marcia, who lives in Southern California and has worked as an actress for much of her life, began having “patches of respiratory problems” in 2003 and was experiencing coughing fits that “didn’t sound right.”
After undergoing a complete physical, Marcia’s doctor diagnosed asthma and prescribed medications. Marcia told her husband, who is a physician, that she didn’t think she had the correct diagnosis. He recommended that she go to a pulmonologist.
Marcia’s intuition was correct. After receiving an induced sputum test in late 2003, she had a new diagnosis: Mycobacterium Avium Complex, or MAC, a germ related to the tuberculosis germ. It is not contagious and is believed to enter the lungs or body through air, water or soil. As with Marcia’s case, most MAC patients cannot pinpoint when they may have been infected.
Her pulmonologist told her that they would “keep an eye” on the condition. After a year of a “wait and see” approach, Marcia’s sister encouraged her to seek further treatment. Her sister did some online research and told Marcia to go to National Jewish Health because, “it is the best.” In fact, National Jewish Health has ranked the number one or two respiratory hospital in the nation on the U.S. News & World Report list of best hospitals every year that the pulmonology category has been included in the rankings.
With her pulmonologist’s blessing, Marcia made an appointment and came to National Jewish Health for two weeks in 2005. Gwen Huitt, MD, MS, a professor in the Department of Medicine, recommended that Marcia take a year-long course of antibiotics and then undergo two surgeries to have parts of her lung removed. Marcia had a difficult recovery from her first surgery, but after recovering, she was feeling so well that the second surgery was canceled. Most importantly, Marcia’s sputum was now negative for MAC.
During her treatment at National Jewish Health, Marcia had a peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC line. A PICC line is usually inserted in the upper arm and is used to provide intravenous access for an extended period of time. It is used for a variety of medical treatments, including antibiotics and chemotherapy. While the PICC line provides life-saving treatments, patients are often self-conscious about the unsightly tubes that are taped to their arms, even when they are not receiving treatment.
Marcia came up with a fashionable way to hide her PICC line – a cover that hid the area where the tubes were inserted. Marcia began making the covers out of tube socks with colorful appliqués. Knowing the comfort that these “fresh, clean covers” brought to her, Marcia decided to bring a basket of the covers to the infusion center at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in California. Before she knew it, Marcia had sold 500 covers in her first year!
Marcia decided to go into business with a relative, and they now manufacture the covers, called “PICC-Cs.” The PICC-Cs are available for purchase at the National Jewish Health gift shop.
In addition to her PICC line business, Marcia is active with her local MAC support group. “So many doctors are not educated about this condition,” said Marcia. “We encourage everyone in our support group to go to National Jewish Health.”
As with many cases of MAC, Marcia had a recurrence of the disease in late 2010. She is back on a regimen of antibiotics and will return to National Jewish Health for treatment. “Dr. Huitt is wonderful,” said Marcia. “She tells it like it is, and I trust her 1,000 percent.”
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