A Breath of Relief for ILD Patients

Almost 10 years ago, Colorado Springs resident Patti Slauson was hospitalized with eosinophilic pneumonia. She recovered with the help of oxygen and steroids. “I thought that episode was over, and then this started,” she said. The shortness of breath and uncontrollable coughing returned. Out of answers, Slauson’s pulmonologist referred her to National Jewish Health, where Joshua Solomon, MD, diagnosed her with interstitial lung disease (ILD).

“There are over 200 different types of ILD,” Dr. Solomon said. “It’s a very broad and diverse range of diseases.” In ILD, tissue, small blood vessels and alveoli (air sacks) in the lungs become inflamed and/or scarred, leading to a decrease in the lungs’ ability to extract oxygen from the air.

Though there is no cure for many ILDs, the pulmonologists at National Jewish Health are “well-versed in managing these diseases and their occasional exacerbations,” said Dr. Solomon. Medications that suppress the immune system — which often triggers development and aggravation of ILD — oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation and, in some cases, lung transplant, can be effective in treating the diseases. If patients’ symptoms become so severe that they require hospitalization, they are admitted to Saint Joseph Hospital, according to Dr. Solomon.

 

Coordinated Care When It Matters Most

The partnership between National Jewish Health and Saint Joseph Hospital provides better clinical care as well as continuity of care, explained Dr. Solomon. “The process of admitting patients to Saint Joe’s is streamlined,” he said.

“It really is a collaborative approach,” said Scott Cizek, BS, RRT, director of the Respiratory Therapy Pulmonary and Neuro-Diagnostics Endoscopy Pre/Post Unit at Saint Joseph Hospital. “At National Jewish Health, they provide cutting-edge, research-based medicine,” he said. “At Saint Joseph’s, it’s pharmacy, respiratory and nursing services all coming together to make the care we offer the very best possible.”

The advantages of both hospitals working together were evident to Slauson, who has twice been admitted. “I think the good relationship that National Jewish Health and Saint Joseph Hospital have has benefited me. I know that when I’m at Saint Joseph Hospital, they have access to my records at National Jewish Health,” she said. “It was very comforting to know that while I was in there, I was getting continuation of my care. If I had been at the hospital in Colorado Springs, they would have had to start over.”

Continuity of care was not the only difference she experienced.

“National Jewish Health is different. They’re great,” Slauson said of Dr. Solomon and nurse practitioner Katie Rosen. “They’re both very responsive and attentive.”

That commitment to quality, compassionate care is shared by Saint Joseph Hospital, she said. “I had very good care there. They always answered any questions I had,” said Slauson.

 

Collaboration Provides Peace of Mind

Ease of communication between the two organizations, as well as caregivers and patients, provides our ILD patients with improved, higher-quality care, explained Dr. Solomon. “It gives them a sense of comfort that they’re still seeing doctors from National Jewish Health and that their doctors are receiving information about their case,” he said. “It provides greater peace of mind.”

Slauson agreed, saying it was reassuring that the people caring for her at Saint Joe’s understood her condition.

The hospital’s nurses work seamlessly with the pulmonologists at National Jewish Health, explained Cizek, adding, “We think our nursing care is head and shoulders above anything in Colorado. Patients leave Saint Joseph Hospital feeling we’ve treated them as a whole person — mind, body and spirit.”

Back at home now, Slauson continues to work with the National Jewish Health care team to manage her ILD. “They are always trying their hardest,” she said. “I feel like we’re all partners in this.