Dr. Lin-Wang Dong, director of the CardioVascular Institute’s Pulmonary Hypertension program, poses for a photo this past week at the clinic, 1801 16th St. (Louis Amestoyemail@example.com) About two years ago, John Kamprath was planning for something very different from the spring break vacation he planned this year.
The now-58-year-old Estes Park resident had been diagnosed with high blood pressure of the lungs, something known as “pulmonary hypertension.” The online literature Kamprath had read said pulmonary hypertension patients faced an average of two years before the complications become fatal.
With two girls to take care of, Kamprath sat down with his wife at the time to confront what seemed like a very real possibility: in two years, it would just be her and the girls.
“Are you guys going to be okay when I pass away?” Kamprath remembers thinking. “Where are we finances-wise? Let’s make sure we don’t drain funds. My life insurance policy’s good, so the family’s going to be just fine.”
Fortunately for Kamprath, things started to turn around after a referral to Dr. Lin-Wang Dong, director of the CardioVascular Institute’s Pulmonary Hypertension program, 1800 15th St., No. 310, in Greeley. Where other doctors in Denver and Arizona kept referring Kamprath from the cardiologist — the heart doctor — to the pulmonologist — the lungs and respiratory tract doctor — and back again, Dong took a step back and looked at Kamprath as a total patient. Dong started to help Kamprath recover in ways other doctors couldn’t.
Pulmonary hypertension can be difficult to diagnose and treat because of the complex interplay between the heart and the lungs. The pulmonary arteries take de-oxygenated blood in the heart to the lungs, where the blood picks up oxygen. The pulmonary veins then return oxygenated blood to the heart, where it sends the blood out to the rest of the body. Issues at various points in this system can cause pulmonary hypertension, which is a problem for cardiologists, who specialize only in the heart, and pulmonologists, who specialize only in the lungs and respiratory tract. Focusing only on the tests of the systems they’ve specialized in, the two specialists can end up passing patients with pulmonary hypertension back and forth, like Kamprath experienced.
High blood pressure in the lungs can deprive the body of the right amount of oxygen, causing shortness of breath and a range of other problems. For Kamprath, it didn’t seem like much more than a cold about five years ago, but as his condition worsened, he started seeing specialists.
Though doctors thought pulmonary hypertension was a possibility, they contradicted themselves and weren’t able to bring Kamprath lasting relief or treatment. Eventually he decided he at least needed a cardiologist near his work at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he’s the deferred maintenance program manager for facilities. That cardiologist recommended he start seeing Dong.
Just as Kamprath started seeing Dong, about a year and a half ago, he ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. He caught an illness because pulmonary hypertension weakened his immune system. Kamprath said he was having a terrible time breathing and gained more than a dozen pounds of fluid from around his lungs. In about 48 hours, Kamprath said he had nearly 16 pounds of fluid drained. With visits around morning, midday and night, Dong kept a watchful eye on Kamprath.
“I think if I hadn’t been here, I doubt I would have made it,” he said. “I credit him with saving my life.”
Dong, thanks to an extensive background including 16 years in a research lab as a cardiovascular pathophysiology major, started the pulmonary hypertension program in 2008. The Pulmonary Hypertension Association designated the program a Regional Clinical Program earlier this year. Only six other programs have earned the accreditation in the U.S. — the nearest one to Greeley is located in Dallas. Dong said they see patients from all over Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming. Margo Karsten, CEO for Banner Health in northern Colorado, said the accreditation helps a high-risk, vulnerable group of patients find the care they need by meeting the standards of a third party.
“Because of the way that Dr. Dong has coordinated their care, their quality of life is drastically impacted in a positive way,” Karsten said.
For the past year and a half, Kamprath has primarily seen Dong, and he still can’t say enough about Dong’s expertise. When he first met Dong, Kamprath was on four liters of oxygen and expecting his life to end soon. These days, he’s comfortable with a one-liter oxygen tank and is talking about visiting colleges with his soon-to-graduate daughter.
“He opened a door that, two years ago, was closed. … His ability to take where I was at and transform it into where I am today — I’m speechless,” Kamprath said. “I’m more active than I’ve ever been. I go to my kid’s basketball games,
Click here to view original web page at Patient credits Greeley pulmonary hypertension program with saving his life