Archive for December, 2016

Cancer Diagnosis Changes One Nurse’s Outlook

The following blog is written by Diane Cox, staff nurse at the Peggy D. Cowdery Patient Care Center. She has spent years treating our patients, but recently the roles were reversed following a breast cancer diagnosis.

After being diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, Diane Cox changed her approach in caring for cancer patients.

After being diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, Diane Cox changed her approach in caring for cancer patients.

I started my nursing career at Nebraska Medicine in 1985 on the Med-Surg Unit, which is now the Oncology Hematology Special Care Unit (OHSCU). After working on the OHSCU for 20 years, I transferred to the Peggy D. Cowdery Patient Care Center. I love working in oncology because there are so many new advancements in cancer treatment. I have the opportunity to teach, be a patient advocate, work closely with the physicians – and even work with my daughter, who is also a nurse in the treatment center. I’m learning something new every day. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned (so far) came in the most unexpected way.

In November 2015, I was having a routine mammogram. The report showed a focal asymmetry that was followed up by an ultrasound. I was told it was most likely a cyst. As time went on, I continued to check the area and still felt dimpling and a lump. Towards the end of January, I contacted my midlevel in the Olson Center for Women’s Health. She was persistent and repeated the mammogram, followed by another ultrasound. Diagnostic radiologist Lucy Muinov, MD, discovered the tumor and did a biopsy. On Feb. 4, I got the gut-wrenching call that confirmed I had breast cancer. It was devastating, scary and an emotional rollercoaster. A cancer diagnosis really shakes your world and makes you wonder if you’ll see your kids and grandkids grow up.

The next step was to meet with my cancer team at the Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic at Village Pointe, which included medical oncologist Elizabeth Reed, MD, surgical oncologist Sarah Thayer, MD, and radiation oncologist Andrew Wahl, MD. They developed a plan. I cannot describe how professional, fantastic, reassuring and informative they all were. My surgery was March 10, which involved a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy. Thankfully, I was stage 1 with no nodes positive for cancer. After recovering from the lumpectomy, the plan called for radiation, followed by an estrogen-blocking drug that I have to take for the next five years. I had 21 radiation treatments and cannot say enough about our radiation oncology staff. They truly made a scary experience less apprehensive. The radiation caused some fatigue and skin breakdown, but overall was manageable. The lumpectomy itself was not as painful as the sentinel node biopsy, but after two weeks off I was back at work.

When I returned to the treatment center, I changed the way I approach nursing. I now know how important it is to be patient with cancer patients. Sometimes they’re angry or scared. Sometimes they just need to talk to someone other than a family member. On the outside, they may be trying to stay strong – but inside they’re an emotional wreck. I’ve developed lasting friendships and connections with patients and their families. My advice for others – keep the patient informed, assure them, teach them and really try to understand how this has turned their world upside down.

Becoming a patient is very humbling and adding cancer into the equation makes you feel so vulnerable. You have to trust the people caring for you. Throughout my entire treatment plan at Nebraska Medicine, I always felt safe in my care, had all my questions answered and knew I was in the best hands possible. My family of co-workers are the very best. I truly believe we have the most caring and supportive staff.

Being a breast cancer patient has really changed my focus on life. As the married mother of three grown children with five grandkids and another one on the way, I know how important it is to take care of myself. I no longer sweat the little things. Life is too short – take time to enjoy your family and friends. Most importantly, be your own advocate when it comes to your health – be persistent if you think there is a problem.

New Procedure a First for Nebraska

A neck injury sent Scott Winter to the ED, only to discover he suffered from atrial fibrillation. His cardiologist, Shane Tsai, MD, recommended a new procedure that would prevent his heart from beating irregularly. Winter would be the first patient in the state to undergo this procedure, performed by HelenMari Merritt, DO.

Watch more in this video below.

Less-invasive Option for Thyroid Surgery

Estelle Chang, MD.

Estelle Chang, MD.

It’s a new option for patients who require thyroid surgery, one that’s much less invasive. Minimally-invasive robotic surgery is now offered at Nebraska Medicine for patients who need thyroidectomy, meet specific criteria, and desire a procedure that won’t leave a visible neck scar.

Estelle Chang, MD, an Otolaryngology Head and Neck surgeon, recently returned from a six month Advanced Robotic Head and Neck Endocrine Surgery fellowship at Yonsei Severance Hospital in Seoul, South Korea.  During her fellowship training, Dr. Chang also studied the latest, minimally invasive, thyroid and parathyroid surgery techniques. She also offers minimally invasive robotic surgeries for patients who need to have their submandibular gland, thyroglossal duct cyst and other non-cancerous lesions from neck removed.

“Traditionally, thyroidectomy has been performed using a 4 to 8 cm incision in the front of the neck which leaves a very visible scar,” says Dr. Chang. “Robotic thyroidectomy is the latest, minimally invasive surgical technique that is used to remove all or part of a thyroid gland without leaving a visible scar.”

Robotic surgery for thyroid disorders in the United States is currently offered at a few leading academic medical centers. It is considered to be a very safe procedure in the hands of an experienced robotic surgeon, says Dr. Chang. Robotic surgery can also be used to remove other benign masses of the neck, such as lipomas and thyroglossal duct cysts.

Lauritzen Outpatient Center Latest Openings

Nebraska Medicine and UNMC opened level one last week and level three yesterday of the Laurtizen Outpatient Center. By shifting outpatient services from main campus as well as adding complimentary support services for one-stop, patient-centered care, we are creating a better patient experience. Dedicated surface and garage parking for patients and their families offers a new convenience not historically found on the main campus. So far, the staff and physicians are embracing the new delivery of care.

“Having our clinic, X-ray and Physical Therapy in close proximity has made for a much more efficient flow of our patients through our facility and has improved our patients’ experience dramatically,” says Matthew Mormino, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at UNMC.  11-23-lauritzen-shared-work-space

Also, new to the format of Lauritzen Outpatient Center are shared work spaces for physicians and staff that lead into patient rooms


Services on level one include:

  • Orthopaedics Clinic
  • Physical and Occupational Therapy (PT/OT)
  • Outpatient Pharmacy
  • Radiology
  • Laboratory Services

Services on level three include:

  • Ear, Nose & Throat and Audiology
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral Facial Prosthetics
  • Surgery-Urology

Lauritzen Outpatient Center, including the Fritch Surgery Center, has been opening services over the course of the last three weeks and will be fully operational by Nov. 30. The schedule is as follows:

  • Level one: Orthopaedics Clinic, PT/OT, Outpatient Pharmacy, Radiology, Laboratory Services and Coffee Shop – NOW OPEN
  • Level three: clinics including Ear, Nose & Throat and Audiology, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral Facial Prosthetics and Surgery-Urology – NOW OPEN
  • Level four: Orthopaedics faculty and research as well as Telemedicine opening throughout November
  • Level two (Fritch Surgery Center): Pre/post op and outpatient surgery – Opening Nov. 30
    Note: University Tower ORs are now permanently closed