A normal day
It was a normal September afternoon for Barb LaCanne, who was going about her day and heading to a birthday party for her granddaughter. At about 6:00 p.m., Barb started to experience abdominal pain. Eating birthday cake was out of the question so she and her husband, Joe, started home. On the way back to town, Barb stated to Joe that she was experiencing some unusual pain and needed to head to the Windom Area Hospital Emergency Department.
Barb remembers arriving at 9:15 p.m. and being immediately put in a room, where the nurse took down her information. The physician on staff that night, Dr. Odom, was called to the room immediately. Barb recalls, “Dr. Odom decided almost instantly to order a CT scan along with labs, given my symptoms. Everyone was great about setting our expectations on wait times.” Given that her abdominal pain was causing discomfort, the staff accommodated positioning her in the most comfortable manner.
“While Dr. Odom and the staff let us know that getting a CT read by a radiologist could take up to 3 hours, it wasn’t nearly that long but we appreciated knowing what to expect. Everything about the visit was just very efficient, and showed great teamwork,” Barb states.
On the road
What the CT scan showed was a twisted colon, or more formally referred to as a cecal volvulus. This called for an immediate transfer and emergency surgery. “Dr. Odom had a quick and thorough response, knew the urgency of the situation, and advised the team accordingly. The team prepared me, got my paperwork together and off we went in the ambulance at 12:15 a.m.”
What really struck Barb in her treatment at Windom Area Hospital was efficiency, teamwork and the caring nature of the staff. Barb said, “The nurse, Jennifer Beckel, stayed with me until after change of shift, and the staff was concerned not only for me, but for my husband who also had a long drive ahead of him late at night. She also noted that Jane Polz, Valerie Wilkening, and Tammy Holtz were a part of her care team.”
In dealing with multiple other health issues, Barb doctors at the Mayo Health System in Rochester, Minnesota. With some of the complexities that could arise, and also the fact her medical records and history were with Mayo, Barb requested a transfer to Rochester. Barb laughs, “I am not one for pain medication, but knowing my condition and the ride that was in front of us, Dr. Odom suggested having IV medication. The IV they put in at the ER in Windom, stayed with me through my entire stay at Rochester, which was great and meant less sticks for me.”
The ambulance service also gets praise from Barb and she noted they played a key role in a smooth transition. “The ambulance crew called Rochester as soon as we got to Austin, so they could be aware of my exact time arrival. They also knew I was uncomfortable so they positioned me so I didn’t have to lay flat. Lynne Elston was in the back with me and was great”, Barb notes.
Mayo for a week
When arriving at Mayo they got her right in and concluded the same diagnosis that was given in Windom. In prepping for surgery, they had to wait for a clean surgery room so at 7:00 a.m. she went in for emergency surgery to fix her twisted colon. Mayo doctors removed part of the colon, appendix and small intestine. They noted to Barb that part of her colon was “dusky” or dying and didn’t have blood flow to it, confirming the emergency nature of her surgery.
Predicting the Future
Interestingly, Barb’s very first colonoscopy at Windom Area Hospital was performed by Dr. Glick. He was very concerned about the length of Barb’s colon, noting it was longer than typical. He warned her that if ever she had problems with it, doctors might mistake the problem as appendicitis, and not realize the severity of the potential situation. Barb tells the story, “Dr. Glick actually wrote me a letter describing my situation and told me to carry the letter with me everywhere I went. For years and years, I have carried that letter, making new copies when it was worn out,” Barb laughs, “but I didn’t have my letter with me that night. And even with all the forewarning years ago from Dr. Glick, it didn’t dawn on me that it might be that issue I was dealing with until after my diagnosis.”
In the end, the letter was a non-issue, as modern protocols drove Dr. Odom to order a CT scan, which uncovered the issue.
Barb was in the hospital for eight days. The nature of her operation involved contamination, which required the surgical team to leave the wound open to allow for drainage. Barb had to be trained to pack and repack the wound 3 times per day. This method allowed for just one dose of antibiotic at the time of surgery and not ongoing medication.
The wound packing protocol was complete in April, and a recent colonoscopy showed that everything looked fine. She’s back to playing cards with her husband, Joe, and keeping up with their eight grandkids.
Barb remembers her experience in the ER, “I would definitely recommend our ER here in Windom. We are lucky to have a team like this close-by. I was thankful that they listened to me and took into my request to be transferred to Mayo.”