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A Complex Patient Gets an All-Star Lineup of Care

Silvana Pannain, MD and Kathleen Colvin

Kathleen Colvin, 61, took 20-plus pills a day to treat congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, anemia and myriad other health conditions. “But I still never felt any better,” Colvin said.

In February 2009, Colvin, of Arlington Heights, Illinois, learned she might need kidney dialysis or a transplant. “I thought, ‘I can’t live like this. There has to be something else,’” she recalled.

A University of Chicago Medicine cardiologist pulled together a team of specialists. Most met Colvin at the University of Chicago Medicine’s 150 E. Huron Street location, closer to her home. A pharmacologist cut Colvin’s medication list in half. “We adjusted her medications to improve heart function and blood flow to the kidneys,” said Elinar Lowry, RN, PhD, nurse manager in the Center for Heart Failure and Heart Transplant.

Endocrinologist Silvana Pannain, MD, assistant professor of medicine, managed Colvin’s diabetes through insulin injections, frequent blood sugar monitoring and daily phone conversations. She referred Colvin to other specialists for diabetes-related complications, such as bleeding in her eye and foot sores.

The team met, talked, texted and e-mailed constantly for more than a year. By February 2010, Colvin no longer needed kidney dialysis or a transplant. The director of Pacemaker and Defibrillator Services then performed a procedure called an AV node ablation, also implanting a specialized pacemaker to regulate Colvin’s heartbeat. The result was a dramatic improvement in her stamina.

“The only thing I can’t do now is tap dance,” Colvin joked, “but I never learned to do that, anyway.”

June 2011