At the age of 28, Major James Patterson found himself in the emergency room three times within three days. The first two times he was diagnosed with the flu. It wasn't until the third visit that an ER doctor ordered an x-ray, which revealed considerable lung damage. Initially, tuberculosis was suspected, but further investigation revealed that Patterson had CF.
Patterson was diagnosed with CF at the Tri-Services CF Center in Texas, where he was treated for his lung infection and put on long-term antibiotics. "If I hadn't found out I had CF, I would have had more bacterial infections, and a lot more lung damage," he said. "Being treated there probably saved my life."
The Tri-Services CF Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio is one of six such centers serving nearly 200 patients nationwide. Staffed by Army, Navy and Air Force personnel, as well as civilian employees, the centers provide care to members of the military and their families. All of the centers offer the same services available to civilians throughout the CF Foundation Care Center Network, including pediatric and adult pulmonologists, nurse coordinators, respiratory therapists, nutritionists and social workers. While the military centers are funded by the Department of Defense, grants provided by the Foundation allow physicians to travel to major conferences and between military care centers, ensuring all centers meet Foundation standards of care.
Although frequent relocation presents challenges for continuous CF care, Tri-Services CF Center Director John Palmer, M.D. points out that there are benefits too. "Having our affiliates spread across the country, we have a large pool of experience to draw on, as well as doctors from many disciplines," he said. "Physicians who treat people with CF in the military regularly exchange information about treatment, which enhances the care we provide."
For Patterson, the treatment he received at the Tri-Services CF Center was crucial. In addition to an accurate diagnosis, he benefited from the experience of the care center staff, who were familiar with late diagnosis of CF. "If it hadn't been for the center staff, who knew what to expect and how to help me work through it, I might not be where I am today," said Patterson.