Collaboration Driving Common Goals

Team effort finds solutions

Emily CinquemaniDiagnosed with food allergies as an infant, Emily Cinquemani had spent her entire life avoiding dairy products. She rarely ate at restaurants and always brought her own food to parties. She also had lung issues, including a cough that had persisted for years. One doctor diagnosed asthma; another said no. “It was really frustrating,” said Emily. “No one could give us a definitive answer.”

With Emily’s freshman year in college approaching, her mother, Susan, said, “Enough is enough.We need to find out what is going on.”

Susan and Emily flew from South Carolina to National Jewish Health in Denver, where an entire team of health care professionals, including an allergist, nutritionist, pediatric pulmonologist, nurse practitioner, social worker and respiratory therapist, worked together to discover what was plaguing Emily and how to treat it.

For two weeks Emily and her mother spent nearly every day at the hospital, with Emily undergoing a comprehensive array of diagnostic tests, treatments, education and counseling. “From day one, it felt like everyone was working together to get to the bottom of Emily’s health issues,” said Susan. ”Everybody was communicating with each other. The allergist was talking to the dietician and the pulmonologist, who was telling the respiratory therapist about Emily’s case. “

Although Emily was allergic to milk, her team found that she could eat dairy products if they had been cooked. A dietician helped her understand what she could and could not eat.

“It was such a relief. For 18 years, I’d been told that a trace of milk could kill me,” said Emily. “I don’t know how I would have managed my meals in college if we hadn’t figured this all out.”

Emily’s cough, it turned out, was due to bronchiectasis, an inflammation of the small airways. Doctors were able to get her off the asthma medications, and teach her how to care for her lungs. A social worker provided strategies to cope with new challenges her condition would present at college.

“Before we left, we had an exit interview with four different people sitting across from us, explaining everything they had learned and what we should do to keep Emily healthy,” said Susan. “National Jewish Health is an example of how health care should be.”