Tag Archives: Northern Inyo Hospital

Rhonda Aihara named NIH’s 2016 DAISY Award Winner

Rhonda Aihara named NIH’s 2016 DAISY Award Winner

May 16, 2016
Submitted by Northern Inyo Hospital

Rhonda Aihara, a Perinatal Services/Labor and Delivery nurse at Northern Inyo Healthcare District (NIHD), was named the healthcare facility’s 2016 winner of the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. The recognition is part of an annual international program honoring nurses for clinical skills and compassionate care.

Aihara, clearly humbled by the honor, said she feels she could share the award with a number of “incredibly fabulous and fantastic nurses who equally deserve such recognition. Each one has their own special touch and their own compassionate heart, and they think nothing of going above and beyond for our patients. I am honored to be able to stand beside them.”

NIH 2016 Daisy Award Winner Rhonda Aihara
NIH 2016 Daisy Award Winner Rhonda Aihara

For Aihara, nursing has been a way of life for the past 37 years. She says she knew at age seven that she wanted to be a nurse. She credits her mother, a Licensed Vocational Nurse who cared for burn patients at the UC Irvine Medical Center, with inspiring her to follow in her footsteps. “I think I subconsciously decided to take the same path she did,” Aihara said. “As a child, I remember wisps and shades of stories she told about her patients and how she cared for them. Her compassion for her patients affected me.”

Aihara began her career at UC Irvine, working first with trauma patients before moving into Labor and Delivery, serving almost 15 years in each department. She retired from UC Irvine in 2008 and discovered she had more to give. She became a traveling nurse.

I can still hear my recruiter telling me about NIH,” she said. “My recruiter said, “it’s this little, tiny place in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know if you’d be interested.’” Aihara was more than interested. She fell in love with the Eastern Sierra corridor as a young woman and jumped at the chance to call Bishop her home. She joined the hospital and worked as a “traveler” for one year, the longest term she could work under that job title. She was required then to take three months off.

It was the best year of my life, I mean, I woke up every day in God’s County,” Aihara said. When a full-time position became available, she quickly applied and has been at the hospital ever since. “I’m living the dream I had three decades ago,” she said. “Every day I wake up here is a gift; living here is a joy.”

The DAISY award honors the super-human work nurses do for patients every day, explained Tracy Aspel, NIHD’s Acting Chief Nursing Officer. Patients and their families, as well as other nurses within the organization, nominate nurses for the DAISY award. In Aihara’s case, two patients nominated her for the honor.

In a letter to NIHD, one of the patients called Aihara “one of the most compassionate persons I have ever met.” The letter went on to say that Aihara’s “every act and word is intentionally kind, empathetic and truly without pretense. I know her job must be difficult on many levels, but she sets her heart into action just as readily as she does her hands. Her heart is beautiful.”

The second letter detailed the care Aihara gave a young patient, including twice being called in from home to assist with the child’s care. “She did not have to do the kind things she had done for (us), but she did,” the letter said. “She treated us like she truly cared about our (child). She went above and beyond for our (child) and put (our child’s) needs above hers. She showed us and talked to us and treated us like family, and that means everything to me. I cannot say enough about Rhonda. This letter does not explain half of what Rhonda has done for our family. She is an inspiration to us. I’m glad Northern Inyo Hospital has nurses like Rhonda.”

As Aspel read the letters to those assembled at the hospital for the DAISY presentation, her emotions became visible, her voice cracking. “I don’t mean to get emotional, but I am touched because this is what makes Northern Inyo special, it has a team that cares about patients and who put patients first,” Aspel said.

Also nominated for the DAISY award were Emergency Department nurses Brenda Brewer and Cindy Knight; Acute/SubAcute Nurses Brent Obinger, Ron Daywalt and Sasha Smith; Post-Anesthesia Care Unit/Outpatient Infusion nurses Cathy Chuey and Oscar Morales, and; Intensive Care Unit nurses Jane Steele and Scotty Vincik. Aspel said all nominees are given a special DAISY pin and most wear them on their hospital employee badges.

Previous DAISY Award nurses at NIHD include Christine Hanley (2012), Joey Zappia (2013), Deborah Earls (2014) and Diane Stevens (2015). Northern Inyo Healthcare District has been recognized as a DAISY organization since 2013.Aihara received a certificate of recognition; a DAISY Award pin; a sculpture entitled “A Healer’s Touch,” which is hand-carved from serpentine stone by artists of the Shona Tribe in Zimbabwe; and, a DAISY Award tote bag.

The presentation was the kickoff to the hospital’s observation of National Nurses Week, May 6-12, and National Hospital Week, May 9-13.

DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System. The DAISY Award is part of the DAISY Foundation’s efforts to recognize the super-human efforts nurses make in direct care of patients and patient families every day. The not-for-profit DAISY Foundation, based in Glen Ellen, Calif., was established by family members in memory of J. Patrick Barnes.

Barnes died in 1999 at the age of 33 from an autoimmune disease. The care Barnes and his family received from nurses while he was ill inspired the award as a means of thanking nurses for making a profound difference in the lives of their patients and patient families.

About Northern Inyo Healthcare District: Founded in 1946, Northern Inyo Healthcare District features a 25-bed critical access hospital, a 24-hour emergency department, a primary care rural health clinic, a diagnostic imaging center, and clinics specializing in women’s health, orthopedics and neurology, pediatrics and allergies and general surgery. Continually striving to improve the health outcomes of those who rely on its services, Northern Inyo Healthcare District aims to improve our communities one life at a time. One team, one goal, your health.

Photos by Barbara Laughon

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Bishop 14 year old arrested for Felony DUI

Six Bishop Youth involved in Tuesday Crash

By Arnie Palu
January 20, 2016

The California Highway patrol is continuing their investigation into a single vehicle traffic collision Tuesday night.  The CHP’s collision report indicates a 14 year old Bishop boy was behind the wheel of a 2003 Buick Rendevouz that crashed just west of Barlow Lane.  The 14 year old was arrested for several potential charges including felony DUI.  In addition to the underage driver, there were an additional 5 juveniles in the vehicle, all suffering injuries.  Due to the fact that all involved are juveniles, their names will not be released.

According to the CHP collision report, at approximately 6:30pm Tuesday, a 14 year old juvenile was driving a 2003 Buick Rendevouz eastbound on Bir Road just west of Barlow Lane with five juvenile passengers, one of which was seated in the rear/truck of the vehicle.  The report notes:

“While the juvenile was driving and texting on his cellular phone, he failed to maneuver through a curve in the road.  The vehicle left the roadway and collided with a large boulder, causing the vehicle to roll several times.  The vehicle came to rest on it’s roof within the roadway of Bir road.  The driver and all passengers left the collision scene without notifying law enforcement authorities.  Approximately one hour after the collision, CHP was notified of several parties that checked themselves into Northern Inyo Hospital.  The driver was contacted by the CHP at Northern Inyo Hospital and during the course of a DUI investigation, the juvenile driver was placed under arrest for Felony DUI, Felony hit and run, and Felony Child Endangerment.”

The 14 year old driver was wearing a seat belt and suffered moderate injuries.

A 14 year old male passenger wearing a seat belt sustained minor injures.

A second 14 year old male passenger was not wearing a seat belt sustaining unknown injuries.

A pair of 14 year old female passengers were not wearing seat belts and suffered moderate and minor injuries.

The sixth occupant in the vehicle, a 12 year old female, who was seated in the rear of the SUV suffered major injuries.

The Collision remains under investigation.  In addition to the CHP, the Bishop fire department was also called to the scene Tuesday night to secure a fuel leak.

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Northern Inyo Hospital’s Employees give big

Northern Inyo Healthcare District Employees’ surpass Holiday Gift Drive goal

submitted by Northern Inyo Hospital

They made their lists. They checked them twice. When all was said and done, the employees of Northern Inyo Healthcare District surpassed the100-person goal set for their 2015 Holiday Gift Drive.
Enough gifts were gathered to provide holiday gift packages to all Bishop Care Center patients, all those NIHD adopted from Airway Medical’s Wish Upon a Star tree, plus all Southern Inyo Hospital Skilled Nursing Facility patients.


Shown here with the delivery-ready gifts, clockwise from top left, are NIHD’s Wendy Runley, Quality And Performance Improvement Coordinator; Kevin S. Flanigan, MD MBA, Interim Chief Executive Officer; Kristen Bernasconi, Quality Improvement Analyst; and Barbara Laughon, Strategic Communications Specialist.
Photo by Steve Tordoff/ Northern Inyo Healthcare District

About Northern Inyo Healthcare District: Founded in 1946, Northern Inyo Healthcare District features a 25-bed critical access hospital, a 24-hour emergency department, a primary care rural health clinic, a diagnostic imaging center, and clinics specializing in women’s health, orthopedics and neurology, pediatrics and allergies and general surgery. Continually striving to improve the health outcomes of those who rely on its services, Northern Inyo Healthcare District aims to improve our communities one life at a time. One team, one goal, your health.

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Judge Rules in Favor of Mammoth Hospital

Bishop location of Mammoth Orthopedic Institute and SPORT Physical Therapy will stay open

Submitted by Mammoth Hospital
December 21st, 2015

In furtherance of the lawsuit filed by Northern Inyo Hospital District and Inyo County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) against Southern Mono Healthcare District and Mammoth Hospital, they failed to obtain a temporary restraining order and were denied a request for a hearing for the court to issue a preliminary injunction that would have immediately closed operations and disrupted ongoing orthopedic and physical therapy care for hundreds of Inyo County residents and residents of the Swall Meadows and Paradise communities who have chosen to obtain their care at the Bishop location of Mammoth Orthopedic Institute and S.P.O.R.T. Physical Therapy. The Honorable Shelleyanne W.L. Chang heard arguments from all parties in the Sacramento County Superior Court on December 18, 2015 and ruled in favor of Mammoth Hospital. Mammoth Hospital’s lead attorney defending the lawsuit is David Baumwohl.

“We’re obviously pleased with Judge Chang’s ruling against the Temporary Restraining Order and the application to pursue a preliminary injunction,” said Gary Myers, CEO of Mammoth Hospital. “Among other reasons for denying the application of Northern Inyo Hospital District and Inyo LAFCO, the judge felt that interrupting the long-standing and on-going medical and rehabilitative care for hundreds of people in a remote rural area was completely unjustified and inappropriate, regardless of the location of the clinic. All of these patients have exercised their right to freely choose to obtain their care from M.O.I. physicians and S.P.O.R.T. Center therapists. We believe very strongly in that right of choice. The Northern Inyo Hospital Board and administration apparently believe they have the right to control and limit that freedom of choice. We will continue to vigorously defend against this unfortunate lawsuit.”

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Mary Mae Saves the Day

Mary Mae Kilpatrick fills vacancy on
Northern Inyo Healthcare District Board of Directors

Kilpatrick steps up to fill a vacancy on NIH board.

Submitted By Northern Inyo Hospital.

West Bishop resident Mary Mae Kilpatrick was named to the Northern Inyo Healthcare District (NIHD) Board of Directors during the board’s regular monthly meeting Wednesday evening. She will be formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Mrs. Kilpatrick, the retired Superintendent of the Round Valley Elementary School District, was the only applicant to file for the recent Zone 4 vacancy. An Ad Hoc Committee of current board directors Denise Hayden and Pete Watercott interviewed Mrs. Kilpatrick before recommending her appointment to remaining board members MC Hubbard and John Ungersma, MD. The appointment was approved 4-0.
Mrs. Kilpatrick will complete the term vacated last month by long-time director D. Scott Clark, MD. Dr. Clark stepped down from the board following his retirement so that he could pursue other interests. Mrs. Kilpatrick will serve just shy of one year before determining if she will run for formal election to the Board in November 2016.
A Bishop resident for the past 58 years, Mrs. Kilpatrick is best known for her 38-year career as first an elementary school teacher and then the Superintendent of Round Valley Elementary School District. Among the highlights of her career, she was named Outstanding Elementary Teacher of America, and was the first mentor teacher approved by the State of California.
Many local organizations have benefitted from Mrs. Kilpatrick’s volunteer leadership, including Playhouse 395, the High Sierra Chapter of Sweet Adelines, the Bishop Community Concert Association, the Bishop Friendship Center and the American Legion Auxiliary, Unit 118. She also serves on the Northern Inyo Hospital Foundation Board of Directors.
“Since accepting a position on the Northern Inyo Hospital Foundation Board, I have gained a wealth of knowledge regarding the services of our hospital,” Mrs. Kilpatrick said Thursday. “I would like to learn more about its rules and procedures by contributing my time and energy assisting the Board in their leadership, and promoting the growth and good will of Northern Inyo Hospital.”

Zone 3 Director and fellow NIH Foundation member Pete Watercott said Mrs. Kilpatrick’s inquisitive and engaging manner will serve the board well. “I can tell you why she is such a great educator,” he began. “It’s because she’s such a great student. Mary Mae asks a lot of questions and she always seeks out the information behind the issues.”
Kevin S. Flanigan, MD MBA, Interim CEO for NIHD, excitedly described “the positive energy Mrs. Kilpatrick has brought to the NIH Foundation Board meetings.” He said he looks forward to “that same energy, depth of experience, community commitment and new ideas that she brings to NIHD as we focus on our mission- improving our communities, one life at a time. One Team. One Goal. Your Health.”
She is married to Charles J. “Chuck” Kilpatrick, a retired insurance agent and long-time community volunteer. The couple has one daughter, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Kilpatrick will represent Northern Inyo Healthcare District residents living in the following service boundaries:
Precinct 30: City of Bishop, West Line Street to south end of City, west of Main Street
Precinct 44: Highland, Sunset, Watterson
Precinct 45: North of Sierra Vista Way, Irene Way
Precinct 46: South of Sierra Vista Way, Underwood
Precinct 47: Reservation, west of Barlow, north of West Line Street
Precinct 48: Reservation, east of Barlow, north of West Line Street
Precinct 50: South of West Line Street, Barlow to Main Street

Mrs. Kilpatrick will be sworn into office during the next NIHD Board of Directors meeting, set for Tuesday, Jan. 19, 5:30 p.m. The meeting date was moved back one day from the normal monthly schedule to allow the board members to attend a leadership training session with the Association of California Hospital Districts.


About Northern Inyo Healthcare District: Founded in 1946, Northern Inyo Healthcare District features a 25-bed critical access hospital, a 24-hour emergency department, a primary care rural health clinic, a diagnostic imaging center, and clinics specializing in women’s health, orthopedics and neurology, pediatrics and allergies and general surgery. Continually striving to improve the health outcomes of those who rely on its services, Northern Inyo Healthcare District aims to improve our communities one life at a time. One team, one goal, your health.

northern inyo hospital, northern inyo healthcare district, bishop hospital

Northern Inyo Hospital Lifestyle Talk

NIHD Healthy Lifestyle Talk centers on bone health

submitted by Northern Inyo Hospital:

December’s Healthy Lifestyle Talk by Northern Inyo Healthcare District (NIHD) will feature Dr. Stacey Brown of the NIHD Rural Health Clinic on Thursday, Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m. at the NIH Birch Street Annex, 2957 Birch Street, Bishop.

Dr. Brown will focus on the health of our skeleton, including normal bone metabolism and bone disorders, osteoporosis, bone density screening and bone metabolism.

Dr. Brown is a local board-certified family physician, specializing in all aspects of primary care.

About Northern Inyo Healthcare District: Founded in 1946, Northern Inyo Healthcare District features a 25-bed critical access hospital, a 24-hour emergency department, a primary care rural health clinic, a diagnostic imaging center, and clinics specializing in women’s health, orthopedics and neurology, pediatrics and allergies and general surgery. Continually striving to improve the health outcomes of those who rely on its services, Northern Inyo Healthcare District aims to improve our communities one life at a time. One team, one goal, your health.

northern inyo hospital, northern inyo healthcare district, bishop hospital, dr stacey brown

Northern Inyo Hospital Board Vacancy

Healthcare District filling Dr. Clark’s seat

Dr. Scott Clark recently stepped down from the Northern Inyo Healthcare District (NIH Board) creating a vacancy in Zone 4.  Those interested in serving on the Northern Inyo Hospital Board must apply by November 30th.  Current board members include President (zone 5) M.C. Hubbard (term expires November of 2018), Vice President (zone 2) Denise Hayden (term expires November of 2016), Treasure (zone 3) Peter Watercott (term expires November 2018), and (zone 1) Dr. John Ungersma (term expires November 2016).
Northern Inyo Hospital released the following notice:

Northern Inyo Healthcare District has declared a vacancy on its Board of Directors. The term of office would run through the first Friday in December of 2016. Requirements for this office are being a registered voter living in the District and a resident of Zone 4 NIHD service boundaries, which consist of the following:

Precinct 30: City of Bishop, West Line St. to South end of City, West of Main Street

Precinct 44: Highland, Sunset, Watterson

Precinct 45: North of Sierra Vista Way, Irene Way

Precinct 46: South of Sierra Vista Way, Underwood

Precinct 47: Reservation, West of Barlow, North of West Line Street

Precinct 48: Reservation, East of Barlow, North of West Line Street

Precinct 50: South of West Line St., Barlow to Main St.

An Ad Hoc Committee of the current District Board of Directors will conduct interviews to fill this vacancy. To be considered for appointment to this vacancy, please provide the following:

Letter or Statement of Interest

Resume/curriculum vitae, including any public service background (optional)

Interested persons are also asked to complete an Application for Appointment to a Special District Vacancy, and a Conflict of Interest Form (California Form 700) which are available in the Administration Office or in the front lobby of Northern Inyo Hospital, located at 150 Pioneer Lane, Bishop CA; and on the Northern Inyo Hospital website, www.nih.org; or they may be obtained by calling (760) 873-2838.

To be considered for an appointment to the Board of Directors, your letter of interest, resume, application, and Form 700 must be received by Sandy Blumberg, Clerk of the Board, Northern Inyo Healthcare District, 150 Pioneer Lane, Bishop, CA 93514 and/or by email to: sandy.blumberg@nih.org and/or by fax at (760) 872-5802 by November 30, 2015.

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NIH holding event to welcome newcomers

NIH Reception welcomes new healthcare providers, acting CEO

NIH announcement:

Northern Inyo Healthcare District will host a “Meet and Greet” reception introducing some of its newest healthcare providers and its acting Chief Executive Officer to the community.

The reception is set for Wednesday, Oct. 14th, 5:30-7 p.m. at the main lobby of Northern Inyo Hospital. The physicians spotlighted during the event include:

Dr. Felix Karp, one of NIH’s two board certified Hospitalists. Dr. Karp grew up in Pacific Palisades and attended UC San Diego for both his undergraduate and medical degrees. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Los Angeles County Hospital/USC Medical Center. Dr. Karp works alongside Dr. Joy Engblade, caring for those hospitalized at NIH.

Dr. Martha Kim, board certified in obstetrics/gynecology and internal medicine. A graduate of Dartmouth Medical School, resident of Kaiser San Francisco Internal Medicine Department and the University of Hawaii, Dr. Kim specializes in abdominal and vaginal surgery and gynecological ultrasound. She works at The Rural Health Women’s Clinic on the NIH campus.

Colleen McEvoy, Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (C-PNP). McEvoy is a graduate of the University of California, San Francisco and has been a C-PNP for nine years. Her interests include adolescent medicine, pediatric hematology and oncology. She works at Northern Inyo Associates – Pediatrics & Allergies alongside Drs. Charlotte Helvie and Louisa Salisbury.

Dr. Allison Robinson, double board certified in General Surgery with specialization in Colon and Rectal Surgery. Dr. Robinson grew up in Big Pine and attended the Uniformed Services University F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine in Bethesda, MD, and completed her General Surgery residency at the National Naval Medical Center. She served as Staff Surgeon for the Naval Medical Center in San Diego for the past 10 years. She works at Northern Inyo Associates – General Surgery with Dr. Robbin Cromer-Tyler.

Dr. Louisa Salisbury, board certified Pediatrician. Dr. Salisbury hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a graduate of the University of Vermont College of Medicine and completed her Pediatrics training at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. She works alongside Dr. Charlotte Helvie and C-PNP Colleen McEvoy at Northern Inyo Associates – Pediatrics & Allergies.

Sunny Sawyer, one of four Physician Assistants at The Rural Health Clinic. A native Californian and former botanist, Sawyer is a graduate of Campbell University in North Carolina. Her interests include family medicine, wound repair and minor surgical procedures.

In addition NIH welcomes Dr. Kevin Flanigan, its acting Chief Executive Officer, to the facility and the community.
Dr. Flanigan comes to Bishop from Pittsfield, Maine where he most recently served as the medical director of Maine’s Medicaid program, MaineCare, for the past four years. Prior to that, he was a Pediatrician and Internist in Pittsfield for nearly 15 years. He is a graduate of the University of Richmond and the Medical College of Virginia, and completed his internship and residency training at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He earned his Masters of Business Administration from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Dr. Flanigan moved to Maine from Virginia more than 20 years ago, residing in Pittsfield with his wife, Kelly, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, and their three children. He was named NIH’s Acting Chief Executive Officer in mid-September.

Cover Photo, Dr. Kevin Flanigan

northern inyo hospital, dr kevin flanigan, Sunny Sawyer, Dr. Allison Robinson, Colleen McEvoy, Dr. Felix Karp

Dr. Meredick set for healthy lifestyle talk

NIH Healthy Lifestyle Talks continue

Dr. Richard Meredick will give a free talk about Upper Extremity wellness Thursday, Oct. 15, 6:30 p.m. at the Northern Inyo Hospital Birch Street Annex, 2957 Birch St., Bishop.

Dr. Meredick will talk about common hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries and conditions seen most often by our active population. Learn about the signs, symptoms and popular treatment options to reduce pain and discomfort.

This talk is the second in a series of Healthy Lifestyle Talks presented by Northern Inyo Hospital.

Dr. Meredick is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon. He specializes in Sports Medicine/Arthroscopy, and Joint Preservation. In his free time, he is an avid skier, hiker, cyclist and rock climber.

cover photo by Gary Young, Dr. Meredick volunteering his time on the sideline at a recent Bishop Union High School Football game

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New NIH Technology Saves a Life

New Technology leads to early detection

Submitted by Northern Inyo Hospital.

A film crew from General Electric Healthcare was at Northern Inyo Hospital recently to capture a local woman’s early breast cancer detection story. Joyce Decho of Bishop credits Dr. Stuart Souders and the NIH Diagnostic Imaging team’s use of the GE Automated Breast Ultra Sound (ABUS) machine with saving her life.

Board certified Radiologist, Dr. Stuart Souders, MD, and breast cancer survivor Joyce Decho share a light moment during the GE filming. In standard mammograms, Decho’s dense breast tissue masked the six millimeter tumor later found by the hospital’s ABUS machine. Souders and Decho credit ABUS with an early detection that saved Decho’s life. Photo by Barbara Laughon/Northern Inyo Hospital

To say Joyce Decho is a unique person would be a huge understatement. The petite, demure woman with flowing salt-and-pepper locks served as the only female lineperson for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for 30-plus years. Her eyes still sparkle as she details passing the physical tests required to work the high voltage lines. She swam every day for an hour and a half with five pound weights strapped to her arms to garner muscle. She worked out as often as she could. She studied endlessly.
She will tell you she thought her professional career would be her biggest challenge in life.

Decho’s healthcare story began routinely enough with a visit to her primary care doctor, who was concerned about skin changes in her breasts. Two standard mammograms showed no issue, but Dr. Souders recognized that Decho’s dense breast tissue could be hiding the true story.

“If a woman has a lot of fibrous breast tissue, it appears white in a mammogram,” Dr. Souders explained. “Cancers also appear white. It can be like looking for a snowball in a snowstorm. That’s why ABUS was felt to be something we could effectively use to find these cancers.”

Dr. Stuart Souders is a story unto himself. He came to Bishop in 2009, to help out the hospital for a few weeks when one of its radiologists left. Souders, who had been working in a large Southern California Breast Cancer center, thought his time at NIH would be short lived. That changed once he began working with local patients.

“I stopped dreading the drive and started wondering how soon I’d be able to come back here to help the patients,” he smiled. Souders eventually left the large center, and while he still has a home in Southern California, his primary work is at Northern Inyo Hospital. “I come up here every other week and do all the breast imaging up here, and I just love it. The hospital is very supportive; we have some the finest equipment for hundreds of miles and I think it’s state of the art in every way.”

Souders discussed the hospital’s new ABUS machine with Decho, explaining that ABUS provided a more sensitive screening for women with dense tissue. Decho agreed to undergo the test, but wondered if there was really any value to gain since the two mammograms showed nothing.

The ABUS test revealed a six millimeter tumor in her left breast.
Dr. Souders still marvels at the ease of the find with the ABUS machine. “This is the kind of cancer we’re finding with ABUS, those killer cancers – very aggressive – that are less than a centimeter and have not spread to the lymph nodes, and that’s the value of ABUS.”
In the recent past, facilities like NIH would have had to rely on hand-held ultrasounds. Souders explains ABUS has brought breast cancer screenings to a new level.

“ABUS was developed to automatically scan both breasts, and eliminate operator variables. Hand held ultrasound examinations are extremely ‘operator dependent,’ whereas ABUS is not,” he said. “ABUS is fast and it’s efficient, and it’s reproducible. With ABUS everything is on the images. Handheld screening ultrasound required 20 to 40 minutes of technologist and/or radiologist time to perform. If a lesion was not found by either of them, it would not be recorded in the image file.”

According to Souders, Decho would have most likely not felt the tumor for a year or possibly two. “If she continued with her regular mammograms, I still don’t think we would have caught it because of her breast density. Most likely it would have made itself known when it was palpable, and by that time, prognosis is not always good, especially for her type of cancer. ”

So how did NIH get this life-changing machine? Souders explained the hospital had been exploring ways to purchase the ABUS system, but fell short of full funding. At about the same time, he gave a breast cancer awareness talk to the Northern Inyo Hospital Auxiliary and discussed the value of an ABUS system. A week later, the Auxiliary offered to give the hospital $50,000 to make the purchase.

Former Hospital CEO Victoria Alexander-Lane noted the important role the NIH Auxiliary has played in the hospital’s success. “Of all the life-saving contributions the auxiliary has made to the hospital, the ABUS donation is the one that has touched the most lives,” she said. “We are very grateful to the auxiliary volunteers for the support they give us.”

Souders agreed. “They saw the value it had for women in our region and they did not hesitate to step up and help. Their gift gave us a better chance for early detection. I think that if you ask Joyce, it was worth the money we spent on the system. That system saved her life.”

As it turns out, Decho was the first cancer case diagnosed at NIH using ABUS screening. “This was another first for me, just not the kind I was used to,” she said. Souders encouraged Decho to take charge of the situation; to educate herself about her options. “He didn’t want me to be a follower, to put my life in someone else’s hands,” she said, before she paused, leaned forward and smiled.
“I don’t believe I’m a follower,” she matter-of-factly stated. “I read up. The more you know, the less afraid you are. I had all my decisions made when I got to the City of Hope.”

Decho chose to have a single mastectomy at the City of Hope. After six months of healing, she underwent a three phase reconstructive surgery.   In all, Joyce Decho’s breast cancer journey has taken just over two years and it’s not over by any means. She has regular follow ups every three months. She’s on medication to reduce her chance of re-occurrence. She needs to undergo twice a year calcium infusions to strengthen her bones. “Then, I guess, I graduate,” she laughed.
Decho openly talks to people about her experience, even showing them her surgery site. “I’ve been told we are fortunate to have a machine like this in the Owens Valley, and I believe that to be so,” she said. “My advice to other women is to have your annual check-up. If you don’t know if you have dense breasts, ask. If you have dense breasts, push for ABUS testing. Early detection saved my life, and it can save others.”

Joyce Decho of Bishop, Dr. Stuart Souders, northern inyo hospital, breast cancer awareness, general electric