Open MRI unit eliminates claustrophobic fears

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Precise procedures: The Trilogy Linear Accelerator utilizes pinpoint microwave technology to make cancer treatment more effective, with fewer side effects for patients. Dr. Sea Chen, medical director at Woodland Cancer Care Center in MIchigan City, looks over the new Trilogy unit recently acquired by Woodland. | Supplied photo

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Janet Howard says she is “very, very, claustrophobic” and thus was “very, very scared” when her doctor ordered a magnetic resonance imaging test to help evaluate a lumbar problem she was having after a fall.

That was before she underwent the examination in the new, open MRI unit at Franciscan Point outpatient health complex, which is under the auspices of Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point. Another unit is available at the newly opened Chesterton Health and Emergency Center, which is operated by Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Michigan City.

“The doctor even gave me meds to calm me down before the test, but it didn’t help. I was still scared and started to panic. I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” said Howard, a Roselawn resident.

However, things soon improved.

“The MRI tech, Paula (Baldner), was fantastic. She talked me through each step, calmed me down and it was nothing. I even fell asleep during the test; I was so relaxed,” Howard said.

Unlike closed units, which contribute to the claustrophobic feelings experienced by Howard and other patients, the open unit contains no narrow tunnels through which patients must pass, which helps reduce anxiety and discomfort.

Howard is a believer.

“I was petrified, but now I would do (the test) again. It was a wonderful experience,” Howard said, adding she even has recommended the treatment to others.

“When I was standing in line to get my MRI results, I heard a woman say she needed the test, but wasn’t sure where to go. I told her to go to Franciscan Point. The staff and the MRI there are awesome. I even call it my friend now,” said Howard, who has since referred even more patients to Franciscan Point.

Latest weapon in cancer war

Both hospitals also offer the latest cancer-fighting equipment through their new, state-of-the-art Trilogy Linear Accelerators, one of which is located at the recently opened Woodland Cancer Care Center in Michigan City and the other in the newly renovated Radiology Oncology Department at Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point.

The Trilogy utilizes pinpoint microwave technology to make cancer treatment more effective, with fewer side effects for patients.

“This new equipment makes a statement to the area that we offer complete care for all patients — oncology cases in addition to providing diagnostic imaging,” said Michael Budimir, Franciscan Alliance regional director of imaging services.

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Provided by Franciscan Alliance