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A patient and his family receive extraordinary care at Intermountain Medical Center - and make an extraordinary contribution to pulmonary research

Olsons Family

Extra-mile gratitude: Jim and Debbie Olson (in the front row) and James and Sydney Olson (back row on the right) with James and Sydney's sons Jesse and Mason.

The Jim and Debbie Olson family recently made a generous contribution to the Intermountain Research and Medical Foundation in honor of pulmonologist Nathan Dean, MD, which will be used to support Dr. Dean's pneumonia research. The gift is an expression of their appreciation for the care received during the recent illness of their son, James. 

A little over a year ago, James visited his family physician about an annoying dry cough he'd had for a couple of months. An abnormal x-ray indicated James needed more specialized help. "We were really scared and lost," James says. "Fortunately, we were put in touch with the right physicians, and that made all the difference." 

Doctors find a surprising problem. His specialist was Dr. Dean, who ordered a CAT scan and found what appeared to be a low-grade lymphoma wrapped around James's esophagus and the back of his heart. "It was huge," Jim says. "It was the size of a six-inch two-by-four. It was pressing on his heart and displacing his bronchial tubes." James needed surgery. 

Cardiothoracic surgeon Stephen Clayson, MD, was called in to perform a right thoracotomy to remove the growing tumor. The successful surgery lasted several hours and reduced the mass by 95 percent. And although it turned out not to be lymphoma, the doctors were puzzled. They still didn't know for sure what it was. With the help of outside pathology consultation and special testing, a definitive diagnosis was made. Among the group of highly experienced physicians reviewing the case at tumor board, only one remembered seeing this before — but only once in his lifetime. 

The physicians later met with James and his wife, Sydney, to give them the news. James didn't have cancer, but a rare condition called unicentric Castleman's disease. Although it behaves like a cancer, it's actually a lymph node that begins to grow excessively. "The doctor told us James had basically just won the lottery," Sydney says. "We were very grateful and extremely relieved." The treatment involves removing as much of the growth as possible and then just watching the remaining tissue to make sure it doesn't grow back. Usually the surgery cures the disease. 

Dr. Dean

Pulmonologist Nathan Dean, MD.

Since then, James has returned to his job as co-CEO of the Les Olson Company and will continue to monitor his health with regular follow-up care. 

James and his family were wowed by the team at Intermountain Medical Center. In a relatively short period of time, the Olson family moved through the extremes of receiving the worst of news to the best of news. Throughout their ordeal there was one constant: The high-quality service and care they received at Intermountain Medical Center. "Everyone was fantastic!" says James. "Everyone. The physicians, nurses, all of the caregivers and staff were outstanding. They created a good environment and a good experience." 

"The whole facility is geared to make people well," says Jim. "The size of the patient rooms, the cleanliness, even the hospital food. Hospital food typically has a bad reputation, but we practically lived at the hospital for a week, and the food is good!" 

The Olson family was so grateful for the care they received during this experience that Jim and his wife, Debbie, decided they wanted to give back. With the support of their family, they made a considerable contribution to help fund the research work of Dr. Dean and the pulmonary group. "Dr. Dean was key in helping us navigate through this whole experience," says Jim. "We will be forever grateful for his care and concern." 

"I'm extremely honored by this thoughtful gift," says Dr. Dean. "The research we conduct in our department is central to improving the lives of our patients on a daily basis. The Olson family is remarkable for their generosity and beneficence."