Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital celebrates 10 years of helping patients with serious respiratory conditions

(photo) Dr. David York, a pulmonary and critical care physician, and Diane Joralmon, a respiratory manager at Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital in Post Falls help patients achieve better breathing outcomes.

The beep worried Linda Sprenger.

As she drove her husband, Mike, to their home in Moscow — *Beep!* — from North Idaho Advanced Care Hospital in Post Falls, thoughts began to weigh on her mind. What if the machine stops working? *Beep!* What if the machine stops working and Mike stops breathing? *Beep!*

Linda got home. The white knuckle drive was over. But a new stress of caring for her husband of 28 years was just emerging. Mike has ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. He now relies on a ventilator to keep him alive.

“It’s scary,” said Linda. “I don’t have a huge amount of people to take care of him. You’re alone and you’ve got this machine and you’re looking at it every time it makes a sound.”

Not that it’s much consolation, but Linda isn’t alone. Every day, an average of 15 Americans are newly diagnosed with ALS — more than 5,600 people per year. As many as 30,000 Americans may currently be affected by ALS. Annually, ALS is responsible for two deaths per 100,000 people. The average life expectancy of a person with ALS is two to five years from time of diagnosis.

Mike, 51, has had the disease for five years. He can’t speak or move without the assistance of a wheelchair. Yet he is able to text messages, and they celebrated the birth of their first grandchild on Christmas Eve.

“He’s doing really well,” said Linda. “I am so grateful.”

Last August, the couple experienced a scare when Mike got pneumonia. He was own to Spokane for a tracheotomy. Eventually he was transferred to Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital as part of his recovery. He spent 35 days at the Post Falls hospital.

“It was one of the most amazing hospitals I have ever been in,” said Linda. “They were with us 24 hour hours a day and they really cared for us.”

The hospital, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary on Feb. 17, provides long-term acute and critical care services to patients throughout the Inland Northwest who are recovering from serious illnesses or injuries. To date, Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital has served more than 4,000 patients. Often these individuals need care for medically complex conditions such as trauma, infectious diseases, wound healing, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and amputations, and respiratory failure.

“They provided all the training I needed,” said Linda. “I know how the machine works, how to clean it and when to call a technician.”

For ALS patients, respiratory issues become a matter of life and death.

“Respiratory failure occurs when there isn’t enough oxygen passing from the lungs into the body’s bloodstream,” explained Dr. Kevin Strait, Medical Director of Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital. “Oxygen-rich blood is needed to help the body’s organs – such as the heart and brain – function properly. Respiratory failure also can occur if a patient’s lungs can’t remove carbon dioxide from the blood. Carbon dioxide is a waste gas that also can harm a body’s organs.”

The 40-bed facility, at 600 Cecil in Post Falls, features all private patient rooms, and an 8-bed high- observation critical care unit.

Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital is the first hospital in Idaho, and the fifth in the nation to receive the Joint Commission’s disease-specific certification for Respiratory Failure. The Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization, accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards.

All patient rooms include cardiac monitoring equipment and mechanical ventilators. The hospital also features a 2,590-square-foot therapy gym with private therapy rooms and a heated aquatic therapy pool.

By MARC STEWART – Coeur d’Alene Press