Donation allows breast cancer patients to be treated nearby

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

Patients who undergo post-mastectomy surgery will no longer have to travel outside Bristol Hospital for the procedure thanks to a donation from the Beekley Family Foundation.

Within the past year, the hospital’s Center for Surgery and Endoscopy has used the SPY Elite System—a machine that helps ensure adequate tissue perfusion during post-mastectomy breast reconstruction surgery.

Dr. Vinod Pathy, a plastic surgeon at Bristol Hospital, has experience using the technology for six to seven years now.

The goal of using SPY, said Pathy, is to determine how healthy a patient’s skin is after a mastectomy.

If the patient’s skin is not healthy, there is an increased risk for a wound healing issue. During reconstruction, a dye is injected into the patient to tag red blood cells. Through real-time fluorescent imaging, the technology enhances a surgeon’s ability to visualize and analyze tissue perfusion. These images can help surgeons like Pathy make critical decisions in the operating room.

“We can see things happening in real time—you can actually see blood flow, the difference in discoloration, which you cannot see with the naked eye,” said Pathy, who has been working at Bristol Hospital for nearly a year now. “You can tell what’s healthy and what’s not healthy.”

Last Thursday, Bristol Hospital staff and the Beekley Family Foundation held a dedication event for the new equipment, which Pathy has used for three cancer patients so far.

The surgery center team said this kind of technology is unique for a community hospital.

“At other large institutions, this is the cutting edge technology being used,” said Pathy. “The fact that we have this at Bristol Hospital is fantastic.”

“We have the ability to draw patients to our center for this kind of technology, which isn’t offered every where,” added Patricia Coppola, the director of perioperative services at Bristol Hospital. “We thought it was very important for our patients to have it.”

In the past, Bristol Hospital had to refer patients elsewhere for post-mastectomy breast reconstruction surgery. But now that the machine is available to them, cancer patients can stay at the hospital for full treatment.

When Ayn LaPlant, the president and CEO of Beekley Corporation, found out about these referrals, she was inspired to help improve patient care at Bristol Hospital through a $125,000 donation, which covered the purchase of the equipment.

A partner of Bristol Hospital for the past 20 years, the Beekley Family Foundation also donated funds for a 3D mammography at the Beekley Center for Breast Health and Wellness in 2015.

“No woman should have to go through that,” said LaPlant. “Patient care is so important to us, and this to me, was giving us better patient care at the hospital—to have a piece of equipment like this that women going through this traumatic experience could be right there with their doctors with their care team and have this procedure done at the hospital.”