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Laurie Odom patient story

Primary Care Nurse Makes Life-Saving Skin Cancer Catch

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Ochsner patient Laurie Odom went in for her routine primary care visit with Dr. Ruth Darg, a primary care physician at Ochsner Health Center – Covington, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Louisiana in early March. While Laurie was at her appointment, Dr. Darg noticed Laurie needed her pneumonia vaccine, so she sent nurse Jamie Catalanotto in to administer the shot. Laurie says what happen next saved her life.

Laurie said, “Dr. Darg asked nurse Jamie to give me the shot. I was wearing a shirt that made getting a shot a little difficult, so Jamie lifted it up from the back, and when she did, she said, ‘Oh!’ She asked if she could borrow my phone to take a picture. The photo was of an abnormal skin abrasion that was out of my view.”

Jamie showed Dr. Darg the abrasion, and they quickly went into action. Dr. Darg sent Laurie to see Dr. Julie Martin, a dermatologist at Ochsner Health Center – Covington, for a second opinion. In addition to the abrasion on Laurie’s back, Dr. Martin noticed another patch on Laurie’s chest and agreed that both needed to be removed and tested. Ultimately, the biopsy results came back positive for melanoma, a form of skin cancer.

After receiving the melanoma diagnosis, Laurie says how it hit particularly close to home. “I’ll be honest: I’ve had a number of health challenges, including other cancers. But the melanoma diagnosis hit me hard. It wasn’t that long ago that the 24-year-old daughter of a friend died from melanoma. My heart dropped. What if that nurse hadn’t found it? The threat was all too real.”

After two additional biopsy procedures, Laurie’s skin cancer is completely removed to date. She said this experience has made her more aware of the importance of monitoring any changes on her skin, and she is grateful for the coordinated care she received at Ochsner.

“As a retired nurse, this is what I love about Ochsner. It’s not just the personal care and attention, it’s about going the extra step to make sure patients are cared for. So often, we hear of the big stories in health care: the dramatic surgeries, the fantastic new tools. We don’t often hear the quieter stories, stories of everyday heroes who do their job well and make lifesaving catches because of it. These heroes, like nurse Catalanotto, don’t often get their due.”

“Primary Care consistently goes above and beyond to meet the needs of our community by providing annual checkups like mine, health risk assessments, coordinated care of chronic conditions and so much more.”

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