Humans of the U: Brooke Abel

“When I was 16, I learned I had a chronic disease in which a specific type of white blood cell accumulates and forms scar tissue in the esophagus, causing it to narrow. As a result, I would have severe choking episodes, and a few times I wasn’t sure I would make it. My doctor at the time told me the disease was relatively new, and there wasn’t much research on treatment options. Instead, I was to take some medication and undergo a procedure to expand my esophagus. However, he warned that after four of these procedures, I would need a plastic esophagus. I was terrified and, for a time, stopped eating altogether.

Eventually, I got a job at the U, and after another extreme incident, I was referred to Dr. Andrew Gawron, who specializes in my disease. I was so surprised because I didn’t know anyone at the U even knew about my disease, let alone specialized in it. He suggested I try a new medication, and after several weeks, my biopsy results showed that my throat was completely normal. I was stunned. After 11 years of being afraid to eat, I had answers and a plan for my future. I owe it all to University of Utah Health and, most importantly, Dr. Gawron.”

—Brooke Abel, donor relations manager, Development Office