Ursula Bollinger's Story

Ursula BollingerUrsula Bollinger of New Jersey spent more than a decade seeking answers for a lung condition that was progressively taking away her ability to breathe. She finally found the help she needed at National Jewish Health.

Over the years, Ursula received different diagnoses and was prescribed powerful steroids and oxygen therapy to treat a mysterious lung condition. An avid biker, Ursula was disappointed when she could no longer go out for long rides of 50 to 75 miles.

Ursula was also becoming frustrated with the care she was receiving. “It would take weeks to get test results, if I heard back at all,” she recalled.

As time went on, Ursula’s lung capacity continued to decrease to the point where she could not walk up the stairs. In addition to her breathing problems, she developed a chronic cough and had recurrent bouts of bronchitis.

“The cough got so bad that I couldn’t get a sentence out without coughing,” said Ursula.

Her son, who works for a medical equipment supply company, knew about National Jewish Health and suggested she make an appointment.

“I thought, it’s too far,” said Ursula. “Someone here has to be able to help me.”

She began to develop fibrosis, or scarring, in her lungs and could barely walk. Determined to find answers, Ursula made an appointment at National Jewish Health in October 2009.

“When I called to make an appointment, I knew it would be different,” she said. “There was such a friendliness in the person’s voice.”

Ursula was treated by Stephen K. Frankel, MD, Chief of the Division of Critical Care and Hospital Medicine at National Jewish Health. “It was the best experience I had,” she said. “Every doctor and tech is just terrific. I can’t say enough.”

Ursula stayed for a weeklong appointment, where she underwent several tests and also attended educational classes to learn techniques to improve her breathing.

“The classes helped me tremendously,” she said. “They showed me how to breathe differently for the little things you do everyday, like walking up steps or unloading the dishwasher.”

Dr. Frankel diagnosed Ursula with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), an uncontrolled and progressive scarring of lung tissue. It leads to a nagging, dry cough and shortness of breath. The cause of the disease is unknown.

There are limited options to treat IPF, and Dr. Frankel recommended that Ursula undergo a single lung transplant. He sent Ursula’s paperwork and recommendation to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

On August 29, 2010, Ursula received a lung transplant on the left side of her lung. She has been able to go off of oxygen therapy and is back on her bike, riding up to 12 miles a day.

She is also enjoying time with her family. “My  two grandchildren are the reason I had to get better,” she said.

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