Pat Martin

He was 11 when he got a paper route, bought his first guitar, and started teaching himself to play, just 12 and in junior high when he joined a rock and roll band.

Ellensburg's Pat Martin, who spent nearly 40 years as a professional musician, knows the importance of a solid performance.

That's as true in health care as it is on stage.

Fortunately for Martin, Kittitas Valley Healthcare delivered quality performance - with no sour notes - when he faced an unexpected health crisis last fall.

At 58, Martin is lean and fit-looking. Other than a series of sinus infections that had triggered asthma attacks - something that hadn't bothered him for years - only a rise in blood pressure detected during an annual exam last summer hinted at an unknown problem. An allergist had prescribed what Martin's wife Betty Lou calls "a pharmacy of medications." Even so, by early November Pat was sick again, his breathing so labored that he slept sitting up or in his recliner.

On November 14, he headed to KVH Family Medicine - Ellensburg expecting to pick up a prescription and return home. Physician Assistant Jan Paxton disagreed. His blood pressure was so low he was admitted to KVH Hospital.

With no beds available in regular wards, Pat was placed in the Critical Care Unit. An x-ray confirmed asthma and pneumonia. Despite a breathing treatment, IV antibiotics and steroids, his blood oxygen continued to drop.

Blood tests the next day pointed to the possibility of blood clots on his lungs; a CT scan confirmed them. In search of an explanation, Dr. Timothy Joos, the hospitalist treating him, ordered an ultrasound to check for deep vein thrombosis. It was negative. But the CT scan offered a clue - "something" on Pat's right adrenal gland.

Concerned about cancer, Joos quizzed Pat about his health history and symptoms. Nothing seemed amiss, Betty Lou says, "but once cancer is mentioned, of course, nothing is very reassuring." On November 18, Pat went home, armed with injectable blood thinners to help clear the clots  - and instructions to see his physician and get an MRI.

Mike Probasco, a tech with KVH Home Respiratory assigned to set up oxygen equipment for Pat, was waiting in their driveway.

An MRI ten days later confirmed the growth. Dr. Don Solberg, Pat's physician, referred Pat to Virginia Mason Medical Center where tests indicated he probably had a pheochromo cytoma - an extremely rare, non-cancerous tumor of the adrenal gland. The condition can cause the adrenal gland to release too much of hormones that control blood pressure, metabolism and heart rate.

In February, surgeons at Virginia Mason removed Pat's tumor. His blood pressure is now back to normal, his only medications the allergy pills he's taken for years.

The Martins say Kittitas Valley Healthcare never missed a beat: Paxton hospitalized Pat rather than sending him home. Nurses in CCU calmed them. The respiratory therapist closely monitored Pat's slow response to initial treatment. Joos worked doggedly to identify the potential cause of the clots. Solberg moved efficiently to line Pat up with specialists.

"If Pat hadn't had the CT scan, the tumor may not have been caught for years - if ever," Betty Lou says. "He would have faced increasing health issues. We're so grateful for the KVH system at every level."