Waking on the morning of May 19th, out of breath and heart racing, Andrea Wheaton knew she needed medical attention. Looking back on it now, the 62-year-old Registered Nurse sheepishly admits that she should have called an ambulance, but ExpressCare was just down the street from her North Andover home. She drove.
“The receptionist took one look at me,” she says. “I guess my color was terrible. Someone came immediately out of the clinic and took me in, I was never even checked in.”
Front-line staff are watchful for potentially life-threatening situations, says Garrett Bomba, MD, Medical Director of ExpressCare.
“Any patient is brought immediately back to the doctor,” he says, “if they present with signs of distress, or tell us that they have any symptoms that suggest a more serious condition.”
It’s a policy that Andrea credits with saving her life.
Medical Assistant George Summerlin brought Andrea into Room 12, took her vitals and triaged her, immediately alerting Physician Assistant Jenny Evans.
“I found Andrea short of breath and sweaty,” Jenny recalls, “…and her vitals were abnormal – we were concerned she had lung or heart problem that needed to be emergently addressed. Because her vitals were abnormal we did an EKG, which wasn’t normal either. We gave her some aspirin just in case she was having a heart event. Her oxygen was low so I was thinking pneumonia, but her lungs were clear. She’d had recent surgery we were worried about a lung clot, having no idea that the clot was as big as it turned out to be.”
“She agreed to go to the hospital,” Jenny continues, “and that was the last we heard of her until she came to see me. She came in after she was discharged, before an appointment with Dr. Goldman. She told me what had happened and thanked me.”
“When I got to Lawrence General,” Andrea says, “The back pressure from the lung was so bad, they thought I was having a heart attack. They called Dr. (Seth) Bilazarian, who did a D Dimer – a test for blood clots then they sent me to for a CT scan. My right lung completely occluded by blood clots, and the left was down to 25 percent clear.”
“As a nurse,“ Andrea says, “I’ve seen people die from just one blood clot. The clotting I had was massive. I realized how serious this was when the hospital had my daughter come in to co-sign a living will, DNR and health care proxy.”
Andrea stopped in at ExpressCare recently to say hello and have her photo taken with some of the staff who helped her back in May. She said she was returning to work the next day.
“I just can’t say enough about the way I was cared for at ExpressCare,” says Andrea. “Right from the front staff… I never felt like they were interested in money, just making sure I’d be OK… all the way to Jenny – if had not been for them, I wouldn’t be here today.”