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Hospital tech assistant saves patient's life

Since joining the Adventist Hinsdale Hospital’s DuPage Imaging Center in 2000, Judie Coleman has showed her compassionate character and an undeniable commitment to her job and to the patients she helps every day.  As a result of her dedication, this Downers Grove resident was recently honored at the Adventist Midwest Health’s Leadership Development Institute. 

As a senior tech assistant, Coleman is responsible for making routine calls to patients every day to remind them of upcoming appointments.   But she also goes above and beyond her responsibilities by calling patients who have cancelled.  She makes these extra calls in the hopes of being able to encourage patients to reschedule their mammograms as soon as possible.

One particular patient caught Coleman’s attention after she cancelled her mammogram appointment.  When Coleman checked the patient’s files, she learned this woman had not kept a mammogram appointment in over four years.  It was then that she decided to make it her mission to get this patient to reschedule her appointment and keep it.

The patient, Rosemarie McElroy, said she usually cancelled because of her busy schedule and the pain that mammograms caused her in the past.  While she knew this was not a valid excuse, the time she devoted to everyone else in her life seemed to take precedence over the time she would need to take of herself.  Coleman would not accept these excuses. 

Finally McElroy did come in for her appointment per Coleman’s requests, but she never would have believed what would happen next.  The mammogram showed some cell irregularity in her breasts.  She was forced to go through a series of tests and a biopsy to confirm what was wrong.  Finally the test results confirmed that McElroy had early stage lobular cancer. 

“My doctor told me that if I had not gotten my mammogram that day, my prognosis could have been much worse,” said McElroy, who lives in Westmont.  “Though they caught the cancer so early, I still had to endure two surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation as part of my treatment process.”

Through it all, Coleman provided McElroy with incredible support.  During her biopsy, a family emergency called her husband away.  McElroy broke down.  The built-up stress and anguish of the past few weeks seemed unbearable, but Coleman offered the comfort and compassion that McElroy needed to get through such a difficult and scary process. 

“Encouraging Rosemarie to come in for her mammogram was just a part of my job,” said Coleman.  “Women are constantly cancelling their mammogram appointments because they are always putting the health and needs of their family and friends first.  They don’t realize they are doing their loved ones a disservice by ignoring their own health issues.”

According to Coleman’s colleagues, she constantly thinks of others and really believes in what she does.  She is more than just a tech assistant to her patients; she is a friend who provides encouragement and compassion during scary and painful times.

Coleman also offers a helpline to patients who need access to a professional or an appointment immediately.  She believes it is her job to help alleviate any worries or questions these women may have during the process and get them in for their mammograms sooner rather than months down the line when time can greatly affect their potential prognosis. 

 “Words can not express how truly thankful I am to Judie for her unwavering persistence and compassion,” said McElroy.  “If Judie had not continuously encouraged me to come in for my mammogram, I probably never would have made an appointment.  Judie saved my life.”

Coleman was recognized for her dedication to the Adventist Hinsdale Hospital Dupage Imaging Center at a Leadership Development Institute, held July 20 and 21 at the Abbington Distinctive Banquets in Glen Ellyn.  More than 400 Adventist Midwest Health leaders attended the event.