Fredrica Scott of Swedish/Ballard Women's Imaging with the roses.
At Large in Ballard: The Touch
My last week has been somewhat consumed with breasts. A good friend and I had hoped to schedule our mammograms for the same day, but it didn’t work out. Her Tuesday appointment ‘earned’ her a follow-up biopsy for the following week because her mammogram revealed a previously undetected lump. The following day my own mammogram was happily overshadowed by a behind-the-scenes peek at courses for the putt-putt golf competition between each of the imaging departments. Perhaps not surprisingly the Swedish/Ballard Women’s Imaging Center had a distinctly mammary theme and was destined to win “Best Design.”
At my mammogram I learned that Swedish/Ballard is on the verge of dramatically expanding to become a full service breast center. There will be added hours for problem-solving breast imaging as well as mammography and bone density screening services and a new machine that will allow for biopsies beyond what has been possible using guided ultrasound.
I didn’t even know the names of these services or that they weren’t available until Mammographer Technologist Vicki Grafton had my left breast boxed and my arm in a position similar to a shoulder-opener in yoga. I had been telling her how many column ideas I gleaned on a previous visit. “I’ve got some,” she said.
That’s when I learned patients had formerly had to be sent downtown to Swedish at Cherry Hill or First Hill campus for biopsies. That sounded like exile for a Ballardite. Sent to paid parking till 8 p.m. and technologists who don’t even shop at the same grocery store. Before January my friend would have had to leave Ballard for her needle biopsy; as of July 1st services at Swedish/Ballard will be extensive, with radiologists available every day.
Since the biopsy appointment was local my friend walked to downtown Ballard before we met for the Not-So-Early-Bird Special at Hi-Life and then checked in at Women’s Imaging. The gold papier-mache breasts that had formed a golf course a week earlier were gone, but there was still a pink putter leaning against the wall. In the smaller waiting room within the suite there were long-stemmed roses. I had to touch them to believe they were real.
It’s almost all women who staff what will eventually be called the Breast Imaging Center (rather than just Women’s Imaging). An exception is Art Tasaka, who also manages Medical Imaging, but he has five older sisters so enough said on his ability to fit in. Dr. Mary Kelly is the Swedish-affiliated breast-imaging specialist. Vicki Grafton, Fredrica Elliott, Kathy Bousman and Carol Fisher Ulman are the technologists along with radiology specialists such as Dr. Sally Browning. It’s Kathy Bousman who picks up the roses every Tuesday donated by Ballard Blossom.
For all of them, providing services at Ballard is special because as Dr. Kelly said, “The Ballard community loves to stay in the community.” She is excited about the expanded services, “It brings high tech and high touch together in a neighborhood hospital.”
Women’s Imaging has always been personal for Fredrica Scott. She lost her mother at a relatively young age to breast cancer; promoting breast health has become her passion and career. She loves seeing her patients at the market and all around town. All of the team members look forward to the continuity they will have with patients, no longer needing to send them across the bridge, able to have a radiologist review the scans, meet with the patients as well as perform more advanced biopsies. Manager Art Tasaka used the word enthralled to discuss being able to expand in Ballard.
I was prepared to camp in the first the outer and then the inner waiting room while my friend went to the other side, but soon Fredrica once again invited me along. She understands that women like to do things together, whether it’s a pedicure or a breast biopsy.
The specialists who work in multiple facilities always notice the difference at Swedish/Ballard. “Especially
on screening days it’s very chatty,” Dr. Mary Kelly admitted. The goal will be to keep the sense of family when volumes increase and there’s more overlap between patients having routine examinations and those who may be there due to a finding.
I sat in the corner of the room. Although it wasn’t my breast draped and being biopsied I held my breath a bit when radiologist Dr. Sally Browning’s steady hand pulled the trigger on the needle, with a snap. Instead of going in blind she was guided by the ultrasound image. The new mammography machine will allow specialists to perform biopsies on areas of concern that cannot be seen on ultrasound machines. My friend hadn’t felt the lump despite regular self exams. “That’s why we do recommend mammography,” Browning told her.
Less than a week ago I didn’t know how different the experience could have been: out of our walking zone, out of our comfort zone, added stress even before the wait for the pathology report. As we left Fredrica thanked me for letting readers know about the importance of breast health. My friend thanked me for accompanying her; such a small thing to do for a friend. What was huge was that they allowed me to be with her and showed so much gentleness and caring all around. To both of us.
Turning my friend over to her husband, to alternating ice packs and Tylenol gel caps, I said my own thank yous. For Fredrica’s change of career after her mother’s death, Vicki’s gentle touch every other year, the radiologists willing to answer my questions, the soon to be expanded services for the health of the breast in Ballard—and the long stemmed roses that Ballard Blossom donates every week for the women to take home with them. A final gentle touch that prompted my friend to say, even while holding an ice pack over her left breast, that she felt a little like a beauty queen.