Team work essential part of diagnostic imaging program

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When Shelly Thackurdin took her blood pressure at work to see if she was more stressed out than a colleague, the 34-year-old Personal Support Worker (PSW) had no idea that act would change her life forever.

Her blood pressure reading was 225 over 135. She finished her shift and then headed to a local hospital. It was there that doctors delivered the devastating news. Not only was her blood pressure abnormally high, but Thackurdin was in kidney failure.

“I was in shock. I could not believe it,” she said, as she waited in Humber River Regional Hospital’s Diagnostic Imaging (DI) unit for a medical procedure called an Internal Jugular Central Venous Line. The line is a catheter placed into the patient’s jugular vein and will allow Thackurdin to start dialysis. “My kidneys were functioning at only 10 per cent when I first went to the hospital,” she matter-of-factly continues. “That was two weeks ago. Now they are functioning at six per cent. I was shocked; the doctors were shocked. I had absolutely no symptoms of renal failure.”

As Thackurdin waits alone for HRRH Radiologist Dr. Giuseppe Tarulli to start the procedure she admits her initial shock has turned to anger. “I am so angry at myself,” she says. “I feel like I have let my husband and son down.” Soon, Dr. Tarulli comes out to meet with Thackurdin. “We see a lot of dialysis patients in Diagnostic Imaging,” he says. “In order to provide the best care for our patients, team work within this unit is extremely important.”

In Thackurdin’s case, she will be monitored closely by both the DI and Nephrology programs as she begins dialysis. She may be a nephrology patient, but HRRH’s DI program is also heavily involved in her care.

According to Dr. Russell Blumer, Chief of Diagnostic Imaging at HRRH, the hospital’s DI program is a distinctive department, not only because it performs its own independent procedures and research, but also because of the major support role it provides for other patient care areas. “DI plays an extremely important role in supporting other departments,” says Dr. Blumer. “We have become a frontline mechanism in the rapid identification of correct diagnosis and triage of acute patients. From a procedural point of view, we are key players in less invasive treatments of conditions which often required surgery in the past.”

Dr. Tarulli agrees, “Peritoneal dialysis catheters are a really good example of the way our program is continuing to grow,” he says. “A year ago these catheters were done entirely in the operating room. Now they are done right here in radiology.”

For Dr. Blumer, the team work exhibited between DI and other HRRH programs is part and parcel of good patient care at HRRH and also innovative delivery. “A lot of what we do in Diagnostic Imaging is routine,” he says. “But much more of it, especially the work some of our physicians are performing around Vascular Access in our Interventional Radiology program, is unique in its size and scope, especially for a non-teaching hospital.”

Indeed, HRRH has big plans for its Diagnostic Imaging program. As the planning and design work for its new hospital continues, keeping in mind the essential services DI provides and the potential for growth within the department is essential. “We know from our demographic analysis that our Diagnostic Imaging unit will only get larger in the future,” says Chief Operating Officer Barbara Collins, “and we are building our new hospital to accommodate that future growth.”

As Humber River Regional Hospital looks to the future, its patients can be certain that providing great patient care is the hospital’s top priority every day. In Shelly Thackurdin’s case, this means providing the latest minimally invasive procedure to lessen her recovery time and provide a better outcome. After about 40 minutes, her catheter is inserted and she is back in her room awaiting her first dialysis treatment. She reflects a moment: “You know, I have been to this hospital before but until this happened to me, I never realized how caring everyone is here.”

As HRRH prepares for its future hospital, the caring attributes and team work exhibited through the example of its Diagnostic Imaging department will be an essential component for the hospital’s model of care of the future.