Pat Mitchell's mysterious autoimmune disease started when she was 19, after she recovered from mononucleosis. Her doctors identified her symptoms as being similar to those experienced by people with rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome and lupus.
“But I didn’t meet the diagnosis criteria for any of them,” she says. “My symptoms were so mysterious, I’m not a textbook case.”
Over the years, Pat’s care team at Virginia Mason has helped her find a treatment plan to manage her symptoms and invited her to participate in research at Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI). She has volunteered in studies ranging from giving blood samples to drinking chicken collagen, all aiming to better inform treatment and care. Pat's experience has inspired her and her husband, Dick, to support BRI.
“Pat has been very gracious with her time to help others find a cure,” Dick says. “I remember in the 80s when she carried around a cooler full of chicken collagen for over a year. Even when we were on vacation in Hawaii, she drank it every morning with her orange juice.”
Pat’s experience isn’t their only inspiration for giving back: Five generations of her family have received care at Virginia Mason, starting with her grandmother who traveled from Oregon for cancer care in the 1960s. Dick also has personal and family ties to Virginia Mason.
“I’m a cancer survivor thanks to Dr. Paul Kozlowski,” he says. “And my parents both passed away there when my dad was 90 and my mom was 88. They received great, compassionate care and I hope to go the same way.”
The Mitchells are big believers in research and education, and also support scholarships at their alma mater, Washington State University. They hope their gifts to BRI help fuel the next generation of scientific breakthroughs.
“We hope that these smart minds keep coming out of college and joining these research facilities,” Pat says. “I just received both COVID-19 shots and it's pretty exciting how these are a different type of treatment that doesn’t use dead virus. There’s a new wave coming in the future of medicine and we want to support it.”