Pictured: Nurse Debra Webb and patient Kelsey Quirk
Ah, spring! Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, noses are running, and eyes are itching, burning and swelling. Some 40 to 50 million people in the United States suffer from nasal allergies, commonly triggered by plant pollen, airborne mold spores and animal dander. Seasonal and year-round symptoms can include chronic sinusitis, sinus infections, headaches, breathing problems, and severe insomnia and exhaustion caused by blocked nasal passages.
But there's hope for the miserable. Saint Louis University Sinus Institute, staffed by board-certified specialists from SLUCare Physician Group, provides a full range of solutions for allergy sufferers, from medical treatment to surgery. "Our nationally recognized experts treat the entire spectrum of complications, including nasal blockages, recurrent infections and sinusitis," says SLUCare's Dr. Jastin Antisdel, co-director of the Institute and assistant professor of otolaryngology at SLU School of Medicine. SLU has been a leader in sinonasal care and surgery for more than 30 years, he adds. "Our status as a major research institution allows us to incorporate the latest developments in endoscopic surgery, computer navigation, immunotherapy shots or drops, and other innovative approaches."
The institute is known for its integrated, individualized approach to patient care, Antisdel notes. "Treatment can vary greatly from patient to patient," he says. "Sinus issues can be incredibly complex — for example, there's usually no one-size-fits-all reason for, or solution to, sinusitis." Many contributing factors can come into play, including immune dysfunction, inflammation of the nasal lining, and structural abnormalities, he adds. "To solve the problem, you have to address all the causes. It takes a team of experts to understand, diagnose and treat these factors correctly, safely and effectively — and that's what we offer at SLUCare."
Kelsey Quirk, now 22, had suffered from allergies, recurrent infections and severe sinusitis since childhood. "I'd seen many doctors, tried allergy shots, and was on antibiotics for months at a time," she recalls. "I was always sick. I missed a lot of school, and never felt like going out with my friends." A thorough exam and CT scan at the Sinus Institute revealed previously undiagnosed nasal obstructions, and the SLUCare team opened her blocked nasal passages with minimally invasive surgery. Advanced, extremely sensitive allergy testing, administered by nurse Debra Webb, allowed the team to develop an effective immunotherapy program based on Quirk's unique allergen profile.
Today, Quirk can breathe freely for the first time in her life. "I've had no problems and no infections since my surgery in 2012," she says. "I take immunotherapy shots every other week and minimal daily medication, but I'm completely off steroid nasal sprays and heavy meds. Deb even taught my roommate to give me the shots! I feel amazing — I never knew I could have so much energy." Two weeks ago, she graduated from SLU School of Nursing. "I'm going to be a pediatrics nurse — and I wouldn't mind working with kids who have allergies."
Saint Louis University Sinus Institute, staffed by SLUCare Physician Group, is located at SLUCare Doctors Office Building, 3660 Vista Ave., Ste. 312, and Mercy St. Louis, 621 S. New Ballas Road, Ste. 307. For more information, call (314) 977-4440.
By Tony Di Martino