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July 1, 2015     Feather River Bulletin
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6B Wednesday, July 1, 2015 Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter m Linda Satchwell Special to Feather Publishing Cance.r is everywhere; it's the epidemic we skate around until it hits close to home. So, when an MRI outed a suspicious nodule on my thyroid, and when further testing confirmed it was a point of concern, I was surprised, and then I thought, "Ah, now this." Thyroid nodules are generally nothing to worry about, I was assured, but it turned out mine was not one of those. A biopsy at Tahoe Forest Hospital turned up a tumor just large enough, and weird enough to be of even more concern. Hurthle cell tumors are rare; the cells can function like thyroid cells, or they can be cancerous. Apparently, they also can change their minds later. This story, though, is not really about me. It's about surgeon Dr. Ben Hunt, a well known, and highly respected Sacramento physician who just happens to be giving up his thriving practice to come to Plumas District Hospital (PDH) and Eastern Plumas Health Care (EPHC) as the new surgeon here. You could say that a fortuitous set of circumstances led me to be a Plumas County guinea pig with our community's new surgeon. I'll start with the punchline and work back from there: my experience with Dr. Hunt, from start to finish, could not have gone any better. I'm giddy and almost disbelieving that we've managed to lure this caliber of surgeon to our small and isolated community. And it is a credit to Dr. Kepple,CEO, at Plumas District Hospital for pursuing and persuading him to come, along with Tom Hayes, CEO at EPHC and the staff at both hospitals. The road !eading to Dr, Hunt, and surgery, lm,: ......... Sacramento, began with a quickly scheduled appointment with EPHC's telemedicine endocrinologist, Dr. Victor Ettinger. My primary care physician, Dr. Michelle Kim, didn't feel comfortable being my only pre-surgery physician. Hurthle cells, those little darlings, were outside of her experience, as well. Based on the biopsy and a conversation he had with the pathologist, Dr. Ettinger said I would need to have half of my thyroid and the tumor removed. He told me that I had a one in four chance of cancer, maybe even less -- which sounded good while I was talking with him and less good when I saw the faces of friends when I told them. He asked who was doing the surgery, and I said I was planning to make a Dr. Ben Hunt and his wife, Dr. Alexandra Hunt (pictured here with their young daughter), have a passion for winter sports, small-town living and practicing medicine. When asked why he became a surgeon, Dr. Hunt said, "1 love the combination of working with people, using my brain and imagination, and working with my hands." Dr. Hunt will be joining the staff at both Eastern Plumas Health Care (EPHC) and Plumas District Hospital (PDH) in December. His wife will be practicing primary care and obstetrics at PDH. Photo submitted pre-surgery consultation could be put on a waiting list appointment with a Reno for cancellations, the surgeon. Dr. Ettinger said, receptionist said kindly, "We "Why don't you go to Dr. don't really have Hunt, the new surgeon at cancellations. Everyone is EPHC?" By some stroke of pretty much in the same luck, both Ettinger and Hunt situation you are." had attended the same Desperate, is what she healthcare provider meeting meant, and afraid. at the hospital -- Ettinger Back at work in EPHC's traveling from Bakersfield to administration office, my meet EPHC's staff and his friends asked how my patients "live," and Hunt appointment went. I gave coming from Sacramento so them the rundown, that Dr. Kepple could including the daunting introduce him to the six-week wait until my physicians and staff who pre-surgery appointment. would be working with him Then, one of them asked a here. rather simple question: why Dr. Ettinger was quite didn't I try calling Dr. Hunt impressed with Hunt, he to see ifI could get an said. Dr. Hunt had received appointment with him in his medical degree from the Sacramento. I hesitated a prestigious UCSF Medical moment, then I made the School. he.was, oneo the.top call. doubting that l,d get surgeons in Sacramento through or that the according to Dr. Kepple, and appointment would be he just happened to mention sooner in such a big city. to Dr. Ettinger that one of I left a message for Dr. his specialties was thyroid Hunt explaining my cancer. "Go to him," situation. I added that Dr. Ettinger said forcefully, as if Ettinger at Eastern Plumas it were the one right choice. Health Care said he was No fortuitous path is coming here and that he was simple and straight forward, the right surgeon for my You have to work for the case. And then the amazing best things; always, they set of events began to unfurl. involve an element of belief Dr. Hunt had been in and, to my mind, whimsical surgery, but he called back good fortune. Dr. Kim caught as soon as he got out. "Do me in the hallway after my you want to come down appointment and asked how tomorrow or Thursday?" he it went. I mentioned Dr. asked. I picked Thursday, Hunt and she shook her head three days away. A long trip and said, "He's not coming to Sacramento beat waiting till December." I felt that and wondering for six balloon deflate, but I simply weeks. went ahead and made the Besides, by then I'd appointment with the Reno checked Dr. Hunt out online. surgeon. My appointment Patients LOVED this guy. wasn't for six weeks -- there Besides being ranked among are a lot of people in need of the top surgeons in thyroid surgery in Reno it Sacramento, he'd garnered a seemS. When I asked if I Compassionate Doctor of the Your Your Performance and Repair Needs ~ ........ ~ ~ ~ ~.-~ .................. Trucks, SUV's, Imports and Classic Cars Custom Dual Exhausts, Catalytic Converters, Stainless Steel Tips and Tubing Collision Repair, Restoration, NC Work, Bedliners, Detailing & Steel Sales Dr, Ben Hunt enjoys giving his daughter a lift. Photo submitted Year award, based on patient reviews. I thought that had a nice ring to it. And, Dr. Kepple said when he called possible complications: that He came back in and Dr. Hunt's references they in one out of 200 cases, there wheeled me back into the OR said, "You'd be crazy not to was a chance of damage to himself. Once there, he hire him." Apparently, after the voice, as the laryngeal mentioned that his partner a rotation during residency nerve travels directly hadn't arrived yet. "You may in Matanuska Valley, that through the two halves of the have to hold the small Alaska town was thyroid. In addition, the instruments," he told me. "ready to make him the parathyroid glands, fourThe OR nurse, who knew he Mayor," added Kepple. pea-sized glands that wrap was leaving Sacramento for During that In'st phone around the thyroid, are in Plumas County asked if he call, Dr. Hunt explained the danger of being nicked in the would take her with him. surgical procedure, the process of removing half the When I say that everyone I chances of cancer and more, thyroid and my Hurthle cell met loves this doctor, I'm not leaving me feeling much tumor, exaggerating. more on the side of the living This is a delicate surgery, I remember taking two or than I'd felt only moments so his partner would be three breaths into an oxygen before. After that, he asked if assisting him, Dr. Hunt told mask. And, then it was done there were any questions I me. and I was in a room that was had or anything I was He told me what to expect more like a hotel room, and worried about. He said, at the hospital and fromDr. Hunt was there to let me "With any luck, you're recuperation. He asked if I know that everything had looking at just two tripslto: had any questions. He talke~ igon~ ~ery~.~ry. well _L~r~::~ Sacramento, and you're about cancer risk and again he let me know that we'd done. In a little while, you reassured me that it washave to wait until the next won't even remember my unlikely. Further, he said week to get the biopsy name." Dr. Hunt was right that even if it were cancer, it results--those pesky Hurthle about a great many things, wouldn't be life threatening, cells weren't giving up their but about that he was very I'm not sure ifI can stress secret easily. wrong, enough how important it I had about 17 hours of He told me his assistant was to get all that sleep on an IV drip, peppered would call me the next day to information, and to get it by visits from family and conffn-m my appointment delivered with kindness and, nurses, and then I went time and give me additional yes, that word again -- home. I tried the pain meds, instructions. I'm prone to compassion. This is a doctor but I didn't really need them, worry; the little details who truly cares and that, as so I switched to ibuprofen. working out not quite right they say, makes all the The only pain was from the can leave me breathless. So, difference, tube they'd put down my when I hadn't heard from I made my surgery throat. The surgery site the assistant the next day, I appointment on my way out itself was painless. was telling a friend inmy of the office -- it would take I had a few days of easy worried way that it was now place in a little over a week. rest and recuperation; I the morning after the day of The day of the surgery, as I know that I was lucky, but I the expected phone call, and waited in the bed to getalso know this points to I was wondering what to do. wheeled into the OR, Dr.what a fine surgeon Dr. Hunt Just then, my phone rang. Hunt came in, he took myis. The following Monday, "Hi, this is Ben Hunt," he hand, he reminded me about Dr. Hunt called. He asked me said. "I wasn't sure my how long the surgery would to say my name, for privacy assistant had a chance to call take, and he told me reasons, and then he blurted, you yet, and I didn't want everything would be alright. "NO CANCER! Sorry, I'm you to be worried." I held He said, "I've already not one to beat around the out my phone and looked at warmed up on a couple bush." it. I looked for a hidden patients, so we should be That's nearly the end of camera. I decided Dr. Ben good. It'll be a first for me for my story. I felt lucky--that Hunt was a psychic -- and a this surgery, but what the my tumor had been found, very, very compassionate heck." He made me laugh,that it was benign, and that I doctor. Then, he asked if I had had somehow fallen into the Dr. Hunt was even better anyone waiting for me that hands of this marvelous in person -- gentle, I'd like him to talk to. I said, surgeon. This narrative is reassuring, and funny. I like "yes," and he went out right important to the rest of you, funny; it helps me relax, and then and told my son andhowever, because Dr. Hunt relaxation is helpful in a friend what to expect, and will be coming to practice case like this. Panic doesn't when I'd be out. The nurse full time at PDH and EPHC encourage preparation or said, "Isn't Dr. Hunt See Hunt, page 7B healing. He went over the wonderful? We love him!" Well... Almost Everything. CALL OR STOP BY ANY OF OUR LOCATIONS: t