Recent History – 1998
By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff, July 14, 1998
Local resident Jim Bacon had the honor on Monday of becoming the first patient ever to undergo a CT scan at the Dawson Creek and District Hospital.
What made him really happy, however, was the fact that he will no longer have to travel so far to have the procedure done.
In the nine years since a brain tumor was first discovered, Bacon has been through 25 to 30 such scans, almost all of them in Grande Prairie. Now he can have them done much closer to home.
“It’s a dream come true,” said his wife Atlin. “A real dream come true because we’ve been going for nine years to Grande Prairie and now they have it in Dawson.”
It’s also appreciated by people like Dr. Leroy Erickson. He’s been trying to bring a CT scanner to Dawson Creek for about 12 years, and he had been traveling to Grande Prairie at least every second week for the last two years to use the machine there.
As many as 1,800 patients each year will be able to use the CT scanner at Dawson Creek and District Hospital under the current funding arrangement.
“At the beginning we probably won’t be able to do that many because we’re still learning how to use the new equipment, but that’s our goal,” said Erickson.
Bacon’s scan took longer than usual because technicians were familiarizing themselves with the technology under the guidance of CT scan technologist Rick West, who was brought up here from St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver for the week.
Over the four days he’s at the hospital, West wants to give the technicians a chance to use the CT scan in as many different applications as possible.
“I think there is a real high learning curve because it’s not that similar to taking X-rays so at first there is a lot of information to learn,” he said.
CT stands for computerized (axial) tomography. Essentially, it uses a concentrated X-ray to get cross-sections of a head, chest or abdomen, usually to detect tumors.
Each cross section comprises a slice of the section that is being scanned. The width of the slice ranges from 1.5 mm., used to scan fine structures like the tiny little bones in the middle of the ear, to 10 mm., for screening chests and abdomens.
When operating, the scanner sounds like a large vacuum and, if you look closely, you can see the patient being moved ever so slightly through the ring as each scan is taken.
The results of the scans show up on a video screen in another room where the equipment is located.
The x-ray is concentrated enough, and there is enough internal shielding that protective garments made of lead aren’t necessary. But some contrast, a form of dye, must be injected into the patient to make the scans show up on the screen.
The patient doesn’t feel a thing.
“You’re just bouncing back and forth on that table and they take the pictures,” said Jim Bacon.
Erickson stressed that the service is available to all patients in the Peace region, not just in Dawson Creek. It was the efforts of the entire region, after all, that helped bring the scanner to the hospital.
The scanner comes from a Lower Mainland hospital where it was used for five years, and has three to five years of life left on it.
It came to Dawson Creek at no charge thanks to a shuffle of scanners by the Ministry of Health, but about $1 million was raised to buy the auxiliary equipment for the machine.
“We’ve had a lot of support from north of the river and from Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge and Fort Nelson,” said Erickson.