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Interventional Immunology Center treats and teaches patients to help them live fully

immunology


Shaquilla Green thought she had just a stubborn cold.

It had lasted two weeks and finally went away – only to return a day or two later. She went to her doctor, who was concerned enough to have her admitted to the hospital near her home in Pittsburgh.

She ended up there for a month and a half, getting tested for “everything you can imagine,” she said. Finally, she received a diagnosis: Lupus. Green was 10 years old.

“I started crying,” recalled Green, now 24. “I remember saying, ‘I don’t even know what lupus is!’”

immunology

Shaquilla Green was one of the Interventional Immunology Center patients who shared her story at a February celebration to honor patients and Center staff.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s tissues and organs. It’s difficult to diagnose because the resulting inflammation can cause a wide range of mild to severe symptoms, including rash, severe joint pain, difficulty breathing, seizures and others.

Lupus can’t be cured, but the symptoms can be managed, which is how Green, now a Stratford resident, became one of the first patients at Yale New Haven Hospital’s Interventional Immunology Center nearly five years ago. On Feb. 8, she and other Center patients shared their experiences at an event, “An Evening With Our Stars,” held to recognize patients and staff.

The Center was first proposed by David Hafler, MD, YNHH’s neurologist in chief, who was treating patients in the Temple Street office that served as the hospital’s Multiple Sclerosis Center. Dr. Hafler wanted to create a center that would bring together specialists and services for patients with MS and other autoimmune diseases.

In April 2013, the Interventional Immunology Center opened at YNHH’s North Haven Medical Center, 6 Devine St. It focuses on neuro-immunology, rheumatology and allergy and immunology, including conditions such as MS, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and scleroderma. In addition to physician specialists, the Center offers on-site radiology, laboratory and pharmacy services, a social worker, registered dietitian and MS and lupus support groups.

“The Center was developed to provide ‘one-stop shopping,’” said Katherine DeStefano, MD, medical director. “Our patients benefit from having one place where they can receive excellent care from a multidisciplinary team in a timely fashion.”

The arrangement also makes it easier for physicians to discuss and collaborate on patient care, she said, noting that there is an increasing amount of overlap between the fields of neuro-immunology and rheumatology.

Because many medications used to treat autoimmune disorders are administered intravenously, the Center has an infusion center that provides 300 to 400 infusions a month. Some patients receive infusions weekly.

“Some of our patients – such as those undergoing allergy testing – are short-term, but many are with us for years,” said Ivory Blount, RN, clinical program manager. “We really get to know them, and we can see the impact we’re making on their care and their lives.”


Green said Center staff have become like a family who, along with her real family and her faith, help her get through the difficult times. She remembers the advice of one of her nurses at the Center, Jacinta Renaldi, APRN, who told her: “Don’t consider yourself ‘sick;’ consider yourself ‘living with it.’”