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DENVER — This week, U.S. News and World Report ranked UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and National Jewish Health Denver the best hospitals in the country for respiratory care.

According to National Jewish Health, U.S. News has ranked the two hospitals together since 2011.

CU Boulder student Erin Forrister recently underwent surgery at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

Forrister loves to ride horses and ski, but she had to put those activities on hold last year when she became ill with what she thought was a cold and cough that wouldn’t go away.

“The just overall physical fatigue and shortness of breath made most of the things that l enjoy doing really difficult,” Forrister said.

She went to the doctor and eventually, a scan revealed something no one expected: a rare carcinoid tumor in her left lung.

Dr. Ali Musani at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital says the tumor was benign, but it was obstructing her airway. Oftentimes, removing a tumor like that means taking out a large section of the lung during a large surgery. However, that reduces lung capacity, and Musani was determined to save the 19-year-old’s quality of life.

So, he performed a minimally invasive bronchoscopy, threading a thin tube and all of his tools down Forrister’s windpipe. He was able to remove the tumor that way, without taking much of the lung.

Musani is one of only a handful of doctors in the state who can perform the surgery, and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital is the only facility in the region with an interventional pulmonology suite.

“This suite is a multimillion-dollar facility with the latest technology in the country and in the world right in the room,” Musani said.

Forrister understands why UCHealth was ranked as the best in the country. She had several surgeries to clean out all of the tumor, but was surprised by how well she felt after each one.

“I was able to go home after most of my surgeries, and definitely go to class the next day,” she said.

Forrister is now breathing better and back to doing all of her favorite things.

“Being presented with that alternative option, which was was so minimally invasive, it’s just so lucky,” she said.