From Employee To Patient

“Ms Baker, if you needed surgery, would you have it done?” Was I hearing this correctly? Did the endocrinologist I met for the first time say “surgery”? My next step was to get another medical opinion on this. I emailed my primary care physician and since I am an employee at LDC, I asked Dr. Pope. He looked at my recent lab values and said, “If you don’t have broken bones, you will”.

I heard from my primary care physician and she said, “Eventually, you will progress to surgery.”

I learned I have a parathyroid disease. My next step was to call the endocrinologist’s office and with a stumbling voice, said, “I think I want to have the surgery done”.

So I was sent to a surgeon for evaluation. His first order was a nuclear medicine parathyroid scan. The next scan was a CT and the final scan was a 3T MRI (our newest machine).

As an employee at LDC, I decided to have that done at my office. I have worked as a medical transcriptionist for 16 years there, but I am an introvert and hesitated to share my personal health information with my co-workers. However, I swallowed my pride because I knew this was the best place to go and it would also to save me money. Since LDC is not affiliated with a hospital, their prices are significantly more affordable.

I am so glad I chose to have my scans at my place of employment. I encountered my coworkers from a different viewpoint. This time, as a patient.

Of course I knew my treatment would be personal because I was an employee, but what I didn’t expect was the great level of professionalism, knowledge, skills, courtesy and kindness that our unique employees displayed.

For the nuclear medicine scan, Karen Harter called me the day before my test and explained what would happen and what to expect. I was injected with contrast and images were taken. Then I returned 3 hours later and more images were taken. I was made comfortable and I felt no ill-effects from the contrast injection. I simply laid on the table and held still while Karen operated the machine. Dr. Pope told me the results later–a small benign tumor was found on one of my parathyroid glands.

The surgeon ordered a CT scan next. For this scan, I had the help of technologist Aaron Seul and our nurse Karen Sykes. Karen asked me all the safety questions before I was injected with contrast and the CT scan was taken. I was cleared for the administration of IV contrast, and so I was injected with a different type of contrast this time. My head felt warm and I had a metallic taste in my mouth, but I felt no ill-effects afterwards. Again, all I had to do was lay still and not move in order for Aaron to get clear pictures, similar to taking pictures with a camera. If a camera is shaken while taking the picture, the picture will be fuzzy. It is a similar process with getting a CT, nuclear medicine or MRI scan.

In the process of all this, I found that all my coworkers in all departments knew their jobs and did them well. I was amazed at the skills of everyone including reception, billing, scheduling, technologist and the radiologist. I saw our team at their best.

My last scan was an MRI. Some people are claustrophobic about going inside the MRI machine because it feels similar to being in a cave or coal mine. I drew on personal experience to help me through the scan.

When I was a kid, my friends and I explored caves around my hometown Mt. Vernon, KY. A favorite game was “can you get through fat man’s squeeze”. This is narrow spot in the cave that makes passage difficult and a bit scary because caves have no sunlight and without a flashlight, there is no light at all in caves.

After working at LDC for 16 years, I knew it was important to lay very still while inside the MRI in order for the technologist to get clear pictures for the radiologist to review and interpret. I drew on this experience when I was taking my MRI scan. I simply thought of “fat man’s squeeze”, closed my eyes, breathed deeply and prayed when I was put into the closed 1.5 high-field MRI.

However, after just a few minutes of being in the MRI, it was decided that the 3T MRI might give a better picture of my specific tumor.

So I was moved upstairs to the 3T MRI, with the help of Paula, Cat and Brett. These three were also very professional, skilled and courteous. I had never seen this side of my co-workers on a personal level only observing from the sidelines. Since some scans were already finished, it was time for the scans to be done after contrast was injection. Brett did the injection and it was nearly pain free. This contrast was the third type of contrast, and I felt no ill effects from the injection. I repeated my earlier practice of closing my eyes, breathing deeply and praying.

The scan was finished and now it was time to wait until Dr. Pope had time to review my images. When he did, he said, “I can see the adenoma (benign tumor)”. The other transcriptionist Pam typed my report and it was faxed to my surgeon’s office the next day.

LDC had provided me a CD of all three scans, so I hand delivered them to my surgeon’s office. Confident that the surgeon had all the information he needed to do the surgery, I went home. A few days later, his surgery scheduler called me to schedule the surgery.

I had a successful surgical procedure to remove the tumor and have recovered completely. I am thankful to have seen my co-workers in a completely different light-–as a vulnerable anxious patient. It is clear to me that the employees of Lexington Diagnostic Center live out their mission which is to provide quality compassionate medical imaging care. I am proud to work at such a place.