Help With Asthma Gets Student on Soccer Field Again

May 29, 2024

Juan SBHC Patient Story Denver Health

"The pain felt like my ribs were closing," said Juan, 11, recalling the first time he started playing league soccer. A pain overcame him in his chest area. Juan's school nurse called his mom and told him he needed to go to the doctor right away.

Julie Penaloza, Juan's mother, knew she had to act quickly and get him medical attention soon. The school nurse told her about Denver Health Pediatrics at Denver Public Schools, better known as the school-based health centers. Penaloza took her son over to the clinic at the Rachel B. Noel campus in far northeast Denver, where physician assistant Joseph Rosas saw him the next day and diagnosed Juan with the most common chronic health condition that kids will experience in the United States – asthma.

"Asthma could be very mild for some kids, but life-threatening for others," Rosas said. "Some studies show that half of kids who have asthma will miss at least one day of school throughout the school year. One-third of kids with asthma will have so much school loss that it affects their ability to succeed in school. It also makes it hard for kids to be able to enjoy other things like sports, drama, music and dance. And those are all so important for their social and emotional well-being. And we know that those also significantly impact academic success."

Watch Juan's story to see how the school-based health centers helped him overcome his asthma and get back on the soccer field.

Rosas, who Juan casually refers to as "Dr. Joe" (even though he is a physician assistant), gave Juan an inhaler and showed him how to use it. The treatment did the trick and Juan got back on the field.

"Now I can run faster and play much better without my asthma coming," Juan said, smiling.

Penaloza brings all of her kids to the school-based health center because of the convenience. Located in 19 Denver Public Schools (DPS) locations, the centers are available to all DPS students and their siblings. Care is available at no cost to families and most major insurance is accepted. Insurance assistance is also available. Penaloza found out her four-year-old daughter Alaia was lactose intolerant after taking her to see Rosas for tummy aches. They tried cutting out dairy for a month and kept a food diary. Now her tummy troubles have stopped. Her children also go to the school-based health centers for their annual physicals.

"It's easy to make an appointment," Penaloza said. "They usually have same-day or next-day appointments and that makes it a lot easier. And also I don't have to drive very far. I would recommend the school-based health centers for other parents."

"I would definitely compare it to a little, a mini doctor clinic," said medical assistant Maribel Reyes-Cossio, who greets and checks-in Penaloza and her kids at every appointment. "A lot of patients who come in for the very first time are surprised when they see that we are a real clinic. It's convenient for the parents and the students. Parents don't have to ask for a day off to bring the kids in. And kids can get immediate attention if they do end up becoming sick throughout the day."

From well-child visits, to sick visits, dental check-ups, behavioral health and more, DPS students and their siblings can visit any one of Denver Health's 19 school-based health care centers for care. Some locations are open during the summertime as well, which can help with well-child physicals that meet the requirements of school, sports, camp and employment physical exams. Learn more about our locations and services. Make an appointment through MyChart or call 303-602-8958.