The Drive to Find an Answer

When Isaiah Tarver became lethargic and his skin turned blue, his mother, Denise, knew it was time to head for the hospital.

In the first 13 years of his life, Isaiah Tarver had been admitted to hospitals 155 times for breathing problems associated with his asthma. Health professionals in Virginia, Florida and Utah had been unable to help him control his asthma. In Virginia, he almost never rode the bicycle given to him because he became winded so quickly. He loved sports, but was unable to play with any regularity.

Isaiah Tarver (no helmet) can now spend his time playing football instead of going to the hospital.

Desperate for answers, Denise Tarver searched the Internet and found National Jewish Health. A seasoned and skeptical judge of health care providers, she flew from Virginia to interview National Jewish Health faculty and staff in Denver before bringing her son to the hospital.

“I was impressed with their drive to find an answer,” said Denise.

Isaiah was evaluated in the Severe Asthma Clinic and the Pediatric Day Unit, two programs that use a comprehensive multidisciplinary team approach to understand and treat the whole patient. On his first morning in the Severe Asthma Clinic, Isaiah saw a pulmonologist, an allergist and a psychologist, and underwent unique testing of his sensitivity to asthma medications. The National Jewish Health team then convinced reluctant insurance companies to proceed with a more comprehensive evaluation of Isaiah’s chronic symptoms.

“They listened to us and they fought for us,” said Denise.

One of the more advanced evaluations, a pH probe, showed that Isaiah had severe acid reflux, with readings literally off the charts. The caustic fluid in his stomach rose up into his esophagus and his lungs, damaging their linings and triggering the breathing problems that had sent him to the hospital so many times.

Ronina Covar, MD, director of the Severe Asthma Clinic, recommended that Isaiah undergo a surgical procedure to control the acid reflux. Denise was scared, but agreed. “It takes a lot to get my trust, but I trust Dr. Covar,” said Denise. “We love her wisdom and her bedside manner. She has such a gentle manner, but she doesn’t baby us.”

In the six months since the procedure, Isaiah has not been to the emergency room once. He has reduced his medications from 17 to three. He has become much more active and started losing some of the excess weight brought on by years of oral steroids. At school, he is starting on the varsity football team as a key player on both offense and defense.

“I am so excited,” said Denise. “I think we have finally found the answer.”



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