Breathe Life into Local Healthcare: A Call to Support Lung and Pulmonology Services

“I yelled to [my pilot] ‘Bring the throttles back!’ But he was out. Then the cockpit blew up. I went to take a deep breath and thought ‘man I can barely breathe.’”

At 41 years old, Commander Dave Harris, was preparing for a practice flight to Fallon, CA with the VAQ 132 Squadron on NAS Whidbey. It was December 16, 2016 and due to a technical malfunction, the cockpit of his EA-18G Growler suddenly pressurized with no release, collapsing his lungs. Both of Commander Harris’ lungs had collapsed due to the sudden and severe pressure, “It felt like being dropped into 40 foot deep water.”

Commander Harris woke up in the ICU of a trauma hospital three weeks later. His life had been saved, but his road to recovery was just beginning. After being assigned a patient advocate by the Navy, Harris began his journey to better breathing with the help of pulmonologists, and then cardiopulmonary rehab and physical therapy. Determined to get well for his wife and three boys, and to return to duty before his squadron deployed, Harris threw himself into strengthening his lungs.

Harris was able to complete his cardiopulmonary rehab and physical therapy at Island Health, but to receive care from a pulmonologist, he had to travel to Bellingham, nearly an hour away. Access to a pulmonologist is critical to providing the expert diagnosis and treatment of a lung illness and injury. “I wish I could have done that aspect of my care at Island Health” said Harris.

In July of 2023, Island Health began offering outpatient pulmonology services, making Island Health the only provider of these services in Skagit, Island and San Juan Counties. Island Pulmonology provides your community with the expert diagnosis and treatment plans for lung injuries like Harris’ and respiratory illnesses including:

  • Asthma
  • Lung Cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • Chronic Cough
  • Sleep Disorders
  • And more!

Respiratory Disease remains one of the leading causes of hospitalization in Skagit County and Washington State, indicating that pulmonology services are vital to ensuring the betterment of lung health of this community. In order to best serve the growing number of patients that rely on Island Health for the full continuum of pulmonary care, Island Health is working to provide more pulmonary care services, close to home. Your support will provide the technology needed to expand these services and help more patients in your community breathe easier.

Island Health Foundation’s 21st Annual Gala of Hope, In Our Wildest Dreams, on Saturday, April 27th will dedicate funds raised through the Heartstrings appeal to support lung health and pulmonology care at Island Health. Guests are invited into the lush mystique of the jungle, to a masquerade ball beyond their wildest dreams as they dine with friends, bid on carefully curated auction items, and raise their paddle high in support of pulmonology at Island Health during this one-of-a-kind event.

You are invited to give the gift of better breathing to your community by making your Heartstrings donation in support of pulmonology at Island Health. In addition to supporting technology purchases to expand Island Pulmonology, proceeds from the Gala of Hope will sustain funding for mental and behavioral health support programs, community health education, and more.

To learn more about pulmonology and its impact on your community and region, please visit