Dr. Neha Patel Providing Relief Through Immunotherapy
Written by Julie Burton / Photos by Jami Marshall
In December 2018, Marcia Bergin walked into Dr. Patel’s office with a case that had stumped doctors and allergists for over 30 years. Bergin had suffered from asthma nearly her whole life.
When Bergin reached her mid-30s, severe symptoms appeared, and her life became a nightmare. Her sense of smell disappeared. She sometimes rested in bed with sinus pressure so bad her eyes swelled shut and her lung capacity dropped to 33 percent. She landed in the emergency room more times than she can count.
Doctors told Bergin she had chronic sinus polyps and diagnosed her with seasonal allergies. She went through six sinus surgeries, one of those surgeries even putting her into cardiac arrest.
Bergin didn’t accept her diagnosis of seasonal allergies, though. For years, she believed it was a food allergy. She tried alternative medicines like herbs and acupuncture, and she increased her exercise routine by running indoors, but with no relief. She thought maybe she was going crazy—until she sat down with Dr. Patel.
Dr. Patel’s words still bring happy tears to Bergin’s eyes. “You have a disease we can treat. You’re not crazy,” she told Bergin.
“It makes me want to cry that someone listened. My story is a struggle. I’ve seen a lot of doctors and allergists. What I am diagnosed with is rare and I’m so grateful for Dr. Patel,” Bergin says.
Bergin’s diagnosis is an aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease known as Samter’s Triad—in other words an allergy to aspirin, asthma, and nasal polyps. Dr. Patel’s plan included desensitizing Bergin to aspirin. Once desensitized, her symptoms reduced and she was able to take aspirin daily. Even better, Dr. Patel’s long-term goal is to get Bergin off all asthma medications.
Dr. Patel’s love for immunology started when she went to medical school in London. She saw an opportunity to give patients a better quality of life. “I see people not being able to play sports or walk up stairs because they can’t breathe. That’s not how it should be. Everyone should be able to live a normal life,” says Dr. Patel.
Dr. Patel completed her fellowship at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. It was there where she became devoted to the family counseling aspect of children living with food allergies. Her natural ability to put children at ease and take the time to be thorough with parents led her to move to The Center for Allergy and Immunology.
“I want to give patients the time and care they need,” Dr. Patel states. “Children’s Mercy’s Allergy and Immunology Department offers exceptional care, and I want to take my training from there and care for patients in my community.”
Emily Umstattd and her son, Eli, age four, are one of the families that have been cared for by Dr. Patel from her earliest days as an allergist. Umstattd took her then-18-month-old son to Children’s Mercy for severe eczema. Through testing, Umstattd was told Eli had a peanut allergy, even though he had never eaten peanuts.
Umstattd believed Eli’s options were over. Avoiding peanuts would be the game plan. But Dr. Patel suggested he might be a good candidate for oral immunotherapy. Oral immunotherapy is a series of treatments involving mixing peanut dust powder with grape Kool-Aid. The child drinks the substance in a controlled setting with doctor supervision. If the child passes, they are sent home with the drink for a week. The next week, the peanut dust powder is increased until the child can safely eat an equivalent of 12 peanuts.
Eli is still in treatment. He has reached the milestone where he can eat foods with the label “may contain peanuts or made in a factory with peanuts.” Umstattd says, “Dr. Patel is invested in trying to help him completely overcome this. You can just tell Dr. Patel loves her patients very much.”
The Center for Allergy and Immunology • kcallergycenter.com
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SIMPLYkc Special • Join Dr. Patel for a one-day education meeting presented for individuals with primary immunodeficiency disease. Learn the latest about diagnosis and treatment May 18 at Sheraton Overland Park Hotel at the Convention Center.