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Home, virtual visit connect patient with breast cancer care

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Home, virtual visit connect patient with breast cancer care

She found a lump in her breast. Thanks to a home visit this patient was connected to specialists who helped guide her through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes,

She was surprised by the phone call. She wasn’t sure how she was chosen but the caller asked to set up a home visit. It was June and when the nurse came to Bonnie Emerson’s home in Spencer, Ind. Emerson shared her news.

Just days before that 2021 visit, Emerson had discovered a lump in her left breast. As they sat at her dining room table, the nurse set up a virtual visit with a nurse practitioner and Emerson, 74, received the guidance she needed.

She never left her home.

During a time of heightened pandemic concerns, Emerson said the personal connection gave her a peace of mind.

The IU Health nurse practitioner that helped provide that guidance and comfort was Lindsey Kocher, who works with virtual care patients.

Emerson was chosen through a Medicare Annual Care Wellness Model said Kocher. The model – part of IU Health’s Population Health initiative – aims at providing annual health reviews for Medicare beneficiaries, said Kocher. As part of her ongoing healthcare plan, Emerson typically visits her physician every six months. In this case, she was identified as a patient due for a visit to review and assess home safety and preventative care.

“During our discussion around needing a routine mammogram, she mentioned that she had been having some pain and noticed a lump on a self-breast exam. This led to a joint decision between Bonnie and I to change her screening mammogram to a diagnostic study, which helped lead to her diagnosis and subsequent treatment,” said Kocher. “I provided her assurance at that time that we would follow her results and assist in any additional steps, should they be needed. Due to her abnormal findings and the current processes established within radiology, Bonnie was automatically escalated to the appropriate specialists who provided her with the high quality care she needed.”

As she talks about her care, Emerson refers to a calendar. It was nine days after the virtual visit that she was scheduled for a mammogram.

“The nurse came in after I got dressed and I was trying to take it as lightly as possible. I told her ‘I don’t want this to be in my life,’” said Emerson. Married to Dan Rone, she is the mother of James Emerson and Nancy Emerson, who works as an educator with information services for IU Health. She also has two grandchildren. Initially, she was reluctant to tell her family members.

“After I had the mammogram, I felt like a knew a little more and could share with them. I think it was all God’s timing – connecting me with someone who could guide me through the process,” said Emerson. A biopsy followed the mammogram and on Sept. 22, 2021, IU Health Dr. Fadi Haddad performed surgery to remove the lump. Emerson underwent radiation for five days following surgery.

“I feel fantastic now,” said Emerson. “I don’t believe in wasting time and slowing down.” One of eight children, Emerson grew up singing harmony with her siblings. They sang in their home church in Valparaiso, Ind. and then Spencer, Ind. and Emerson performed in high school madrigal dinners. After high school she was a soloist in her church choir and in her early 30s became a vocalist with the rock and pop group, “Dr. Bop & The Headliners.” The group performed throughout the Midwest during the early to mid 70s.

“I have three best friends that I’ve been playing bridge with for 48 years. One time we were talking about the difference between dreams and fantasies. They said, ‘Bonnie, you always had a fantasy that you’d be a singer.’ I said, ‘I don’t think fantasies are meant to come true but dreams are,’” said Emerson.

The next thing she knew she’d joined the band.

“I wanted to show my children what it means to accomplish dreams,” said Emerson. “I really believe everything happens at the right time, for the right reason. The nurses who helped me are my angels. In my heart I’m so happy it happened the way it happened and I’m ready to go on living life to the fullest.”

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