Name: Patty Hopkins, MT, MLS
Title: Laboratory Director
Employer: The Pediatric Center LLC, Thomasville, GA
We are a moderate complexity lab which supports six pediatricians, a nurse practitioner and a physician assistant. There are three of us who do all the blood draws and run the labs, which average from 10,000 to 25,000 tests per year between our two locations.
While most people probably think that pediatric practices are all about child wellness visits, in the 21 years since I have been the lab director here, I’ve seen all kinds of health issues in children. We do a lot of testing for conditions like influenza, strep, mononucleosis, fungus, scabies, mites, anemia and more serious diseases like diabetes or cancer.
Just the other day, for example, a young child came in who had weighed 150 pounds three months earlier, but now was down to only 112, a nearly 40-pound weight loss. Of course, the first thing you think about when you see something that dramatic is diabetes or some other serious health condition. I immediately did a dipstick urinalysis test, which showed a high level of ketones, and a reading of 1,000 milligrams of glucose. A finger stick blood test also read “High,” which meant the glucose levels were higher than the limitations of the measurement! We also sent the blood sample for stat testing at a nearby hospital; it came back at over 1,000 milligrams/deciliters of glucose, which helped confirm a diagnosis of onset diabetes. We immediately sent the patient to the ER, where she was stabilized, then transferred to the nearest pediatric hospital, in Tallahassee, FL.
In another instance, I was running tests on a baby who was in remission from Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. When I did the finger stick blood test, her finger wouldn’t stop bleeding. Then I got a strange reading on her test, so I re-ran it, with the same result. That’s when I called in the doctor and showed him my findings. He immediately ordered emergency treatment.
Laboratorians are often the unseen members of some health teams, such as in hospitals, but I have a lot of patient contact here, since we do all the screenings and blood draws. You especially get to know the patients who come back frequently, like one little girl who used to come in monthly to have her blood drawn while she was being treated for a pituitary gland tumor. She was the sweetest little girl, and after her treatment was over, she wrote me a thank you note for being so gentle when I drew her blood. Things like that really make us feel good because you know you have made a difference in someone’s life.