Paula Ancelli was enjoying a day with her family when she received a call from her physician. She had consulted with him, whom she had consulted with for on what she thought was a bladder infection.
“My husband started giving me a hard time about being on my phone, since we were all spending time together, but then he saw the look on my face,” Paula said.
The problem was not a bladder infection; it was a mass.
THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Paula’s daughter, Tricia, is a nurse at Baystate Medical Practices in Northampton. When she learned of her mother’s health concerns she urged her mom to make an appointment with Dr. Richard Alexander.
“Having worked with him in the office, I knew the type of care that he gives to all of his patients,” Tricia said. “I knew immediately that he was the one I wanted my mom to go to. Although she lives in Westfield, driving to Northampton for appointments and Baystate Franklin Medical Center for surgery in Greenfield would be well worth the trips.”
Dr. Alexander ordered a CAT scan for Paula, a special X-ray test that produces cross-sectional images of the body using X-rays and a computer.
The results showed diverticulitis, an infection of the small pouches that develop along the walls of the intestines. In Paula’s case, the infection came with another complication. An abnormal passageway called a fistula appeared as a mass on the X-ray scans.
“He had answers before I even asked the questions,” Paula said. “He had consulted with a surgeon as soon as he saw the diverticulitis, which I thought showed great collaboration. We started setting up the appointments and a quick plan of treatment. He made sure I understood the process the whole way through.”
Dr. Alexander had consulted with Dr. Thampi Ampadi, general surgeon at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.
“I hadn’t met Dr. Ampadi yet, but I knew I trusted Dr. Alexander to make the right decision in my mom’s best interest,” Tricia said.
As the first step in early March, Dr. Alexander did a biopsy of the bladder, in an effort to rule out cancer.
Paula was cancer-free and scheduled to have a colon resection in the beginning of April with Dr. Ampadi.
“In the back of my mind, I had planned for the worst. We really thought it was bladder cancer and we were so relieved by her diagnosis. However, I was still aware that her upcoming surgery was a big deal,” Tricia said.
Accompanying her mom to pre-op appointments, Tricia felt that it was important to be as educated as possible leading up to the surgery. She remembers a specific encounter with Dr. Ampadi that put her mind at ease.
“Dr. Ampadi knew I was in the medical field and at one point when we were talking about the surgery I said, ‘I don’t understand. Please explain to me exactly what you are going to do.’ He took the time to walk me through the whole process, and went into detail about what we could expect.” Tricia said. “Having all the information put me at ease and I think we all left the appointment feeling very prepared.”
FAMILIAR FACES AND COMFORTING WORDS
“I remember the day of my surgery, being wheeled into the operating room. And I still carry with me the words of the nurse anesthetist, Ashley Didonna.”
Paula’s surgery was successful, and she spent three days recovering at the hospital. As a self-proclaimed people-watcher, she noticed the unit was busy and was impressed that the staff always remained positive and patient.
She felt supported, which also eased the minds of her family members.
“I was so happy with the care that my mom received,” Tricia said. “It was especially comforting that we saw familiar faces for both of her procedures at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.”
“I think if you are not feeling well and you know you are getting the best care possible, it makes for a much easier situation,” Paula said. “I never felt like I was treated like another person in ‘Bed B’. It was clear that everyone was doing whatever they could to make the situation as comfortable as possible; and they succeeded.”