Life's different on other end of stethoscope

Staff writer

Her own health problems, including extensive surgery to remove a liver tumor, have given physician Paige Hatcher Dodson a new outlook on physician-patient relations.

Back at work Monday at St. Luke Medical Clinic for her first whole work day since her surgery June 10, Dodson said it had been difficult for her to be a patient rather than a physician.

“It’s hard to depend on other people when it’s my job to take care of others, so it’s quite different to have to be the patient,” she said.

The surgery required Dodson to stay in the hospital for five days and be on bed rest for two weeks. During that time, Dodson’s husband, Scott, waited on her hand and foot.

“I am not good at sitting still and was miserable and bored,” she said. “Scott stayed home for a week after I got home because I couldn’t do anything for myself.”

Multiple people visited, brought food, and helped recovery time go faster, she said.

“It was quite the role reversal, but I believe my recovery went so well because I had so many people who helped take care of me,” she said. “I can’t say thanks enough.”

The most difficult part, Dodson said, was knowing too much about the risks and steps leading up to her surgery.

“I often ask patients to trust me and I reassure them,” she said. “It was harder for me because I knew the risks, and therefore, it was hard for anyone to reassure me.”

Another difficult part was waiting.

“It was really impressed upon me that I didn’t care why someone couldn’t help me. All I cared about was that I wasn’t getting care,” she said. “I learned it doesn’t matter why something isn’t happening at an acceptable pace from a patient’s view.”

Dodson said her experience would help her relate to patients when test results or other procedures are delayed.

“It was pretty tough,” she said. “I don’t have a doctor here, so it was unusual to see a nurse practitioner, especially being the one they answer to.”

Dodson had to be her own doctor at times, but was grateful Don Hodson stepped in to see her.

Three days after returning from an engagement trip to France in May, Dodson became sick with stomach pains. She initially thought she might have eaten or drank something bad overseas, but because of the intensity of the pain, she went to the emergency room at St. Luke.

“I always thought we had an excellent ER staff and would tell patents that, but now I know firsthand,” Dodson said.

Initially Dodson thought it was an ulcer, but two weeks later Dodson was in the emergency room again.

“I knew it was something bad because everything was taking too long, and I heard someone call for a radiologist over the PA, which is only done when scans are bad,” she said.

The tumor was pressing against her inferior vena cava, a large vein that carries blood back from the lower half of the body. The tumor had to be removed. Surgery was scheduled four days after discovering the tumor.

Initially it was thought that a large part of Dodson’s liver would have to be removed, but surgeons at Via Christi St. Francis Hospital of Wichita were able to complete the surgery by removing only a small piece of her liver and gallbladder.

As a child in Portland, Oregon, Dodson had suffered a traumatic head injury, but even in a larger community she said she did not experience the support she received in Marion.

“I’ve only been here since October, and the community has embraced me and been extremely supportive,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

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