By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
THE CT scanner in the Gilbert Bain Hospital, bought following a huge public fund-raising appeal, has been operating for exactly a year.
During that time over 500 patients have been scanned, including a few from Orkney.
The scanner is a diagnostic tool and one of its most important uses in Shetland is in detecting cancer and cancer-related illnesses. It is also particularly useful in detecting strokes. Having a scanner based in Lerwick has a number of benefits for patients including speedy diagnosis and being able to have family and friends close by.
Patients who have undergone CT examination tell the clinical staff they are relieved they do not have to go through the upheaval and time involved in travelling to Aberdeen. This has been extremely helpful for patients who are ill or anxious and do not feel well enough to make a long, and sometimes stressful, journey without close personal support.
NHS Shetland Director of Clinical Services Simon Bokor-Ingram said: “Patients undergoing chemotherapy or who have had a stroke are particularly relieved to be scanned in Shetland, as it means they do not have to travel at a time when they are feeling unwell.”
From an NHS point of view it also means that nurses, who previously had to accompany patients to Aberdeen for scans, are not being taken away from their nursing duties in the hospital and can continue to care for the patients there.
Plans are well under way to place an additional radiographer in post early next year. CATS will fund this post until NHS Shetland takes over the whole project from 1st April 2010.
Having an extra radiographer based in Lerwick extends the hours the CT scanner is available and it reduces the possibility of any interruption to the service. It also allows for extra staff training, as it is a skill that needs to be kept up-to-date.
CATS chairman Peter Malcolmson said: “We have been delighted with the service the CT scanner has provided to Shetland. It has made the whole project so worthwhile to know that so many people have benefited.
“With the support of the people of Shetland, CATS has delivered what it set out to do: to save trauma, save time and save lives. I think we can all be proud of what we have achieved.”
One woman who has benefited from the scanner is Marion Wiseman, 47, of Tingwall, who was scanned the very first day the machine came into operation, several weeks before the official opening.
Mrs Wiseman was gravely ill with the rare and incurable condition LAM (lymphangioleimomatosis) which caused excess muscle to grow around the lungs, reducing their function and causing them to deteriorate. Everywhere she went an oxygen bottle went with her, and mealtimes were especially difficult, with mouthfuls taken between breaths of oxygen.
By last autumn her family were told her chances of survival were slim.
After having her scan, which confirmed the diagnosis, Mrs Wiseman was flown to the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, to await a double lung transplant. This took place in November last year.
In May Mrs Wiseman, an additional support needs teacher at Tingwall Primary School, celebrated six months of her new lease of life by cycling a sponsored “marathon” 26 miles on an exercise bike at Clickimin.
Now, a year on, she said: “I feel great. I’m sure the scanner saved my life. Once they saw my lungs and realised how drastic my situation was they got me to Newcastle two days later. If I hadn’t had a scan then there’s a fair chance I wouldn’t be around today. I would have been too ill to travel to Aberdeen for a scan.
“I’m feeling wonderful now and leading a completely normal life. But without the scanner it could have been very different.
“I haven’t been on the exercise bike for a while, I’ve been too busy working.”
The cycle ride Mrs Wiseman did in May raised £7,600 for the charity LAM Action and she thanked all who donated.