Johns Hopkins executive praises University of Utah Health for daughter's medical treatment


By Melinda Rogers

Kate Gragnolati was ready to start a new chapter in life when she moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming after graduating college on the east coast in 2011.

An athlete and skier, Kate has spent most of her life in great shape.

So when she landed in a Jackson Hole emergency room last year after a series of high fevers and excruciating stomach pains, she knew something was wrong.

Multiple trips to the hospital in Jackson Hole resulted in the discovery that Kate had an extremely high white blood cell count. A CAT scan revealed troubling cloudiness in her lower abdominal area, which led doctors to suggest she undergo a colonoscopy to get to the root of her unexplained illness.

Kate grew up next to one of the best health care system’s in the world: Her father, Brian Gragnolati, is senior vice president for the Johns Hopkins Health System in Maryland. Wanting his daughter to undergo the colonoscopy with a gastroenterology specialist, Brian Gragnolati arranged to have his daughter transported to a place he knew as a high-quality institution out west: University of Utah Health.

“She was very sick with full-blown sepsis when we had her air transported to Utah,” recalled Brian Gragnolati. “I was very concerned about her clinical condition and knew she needed to be in a place that had the diagnostic capabilities to determine what was going on and how to best treat her problem. When I consulted the vice chair of surgery here at Hopkins he immediately called a colleague at Utah and we had her there in a matter of hours.”

“We knew that University of Utah Health has a great reputation and that I would be able to get the help I needed there,” added Kate.

A MedEvac transported Kate from Jackson Hole to Salt Lake City, where she spent nearly a week in University of Utah Hospital as doctors tried to discover why she was sick. At first doctors wondered if she was suffering from Crohn’s disease or another inflammatory disease.

Her symptoms improved after several days of antibiotics at University of Utah Hospital, and she was able to fly back to Maryland, where she underwent more treatment with family nearby to help as she recovered.

Ultimately, doctors in Utah and Maryland decided that Kate had contracted an unusual infection in her colon walls. The source of why she picked up the disease remains a mystery, but after treatment with antibiotics, she has been able to return to her new home in Wyoming.

Since then, life has returned to normal for the active 20-something, who now works as a trainer in Jackson Hole and enjoys what the area has to offer outdoors. University of Utah Health and its doctors, she said, played an important role in getting her back on her feet.

“I was shocked by how nice the facilities were,” said Kate. “They put me in this really nice room and I had this amazing view of the city. The care was really good.”

Kate’s father is also grateful for the caring team at University of Utah Health who cared for his daughter.

“From the moment I stepped on the unit and began to discuss her case with the staff I knew we were in the right place,” said Brian Gragnolati.

“I have spent my entire career in health care and have visited hundreds of hospitals both in the US and throughout the world. I know what great care feels like and U of U Health had it all.”

The Gragnolatis were thankful and impressed with the communication provided by Kate’s nurses and her attending physician, Michael Strong, MD, who was vigilant in following-up with Kate after her discharge and brief return to Maryland.

“The sign of a great hospital is strong and empowered nursing. I was very impressed by each and every staff member,” said Brian Gragnolait. “In addition, the physicians both attending and house staff were superb. The ability to communicate in a clear, honest and caring manner is essential in these difficult times. Our questions were always answered even when her diagnosis was not clear.”

While the Gragnolatis hope that Kate never needs the kind of medical help she had to have while ill again, University of Utah Health is a place they would return for top-notch care, they said.

“I could not have been happier with our experience,” said Brian Gragnaloti.

“I’m thankful for the great care I received,” added Kate.

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