Living Through Breast Cancer

Posted on October 01, 2013 by Ali Sadeghi

Breast cancer is perhaps the most terrifying diagnosis a woman can face. For American women, death rates are higher for breast cancer than any other cancer except lung cancer. While it is becoming more beatable, the treatment for breast cancer often includes a mastectomy (sometimes a double mastectomy). These two facts leave women feeling frightened and vulnerable. They’re battling a potentially fatal disease and they might feel like their womanhood is diminished should they need a mastectomy.

Facing such a high stakes battle, a woman needs nothing less than the best care. Care means more than just cutting-edge surgeries and medical treatments. Care means treating the whole person. Part of treating a whole person is making the patient feel safe, welcome, and cared for. All too often, hospitals make people who are already stressed and worried feel like they’re just a number or a case study. But at Omega Hospital in Metairie, every single person, from the doctors to the staff, strives to create an atmosphere where patients are treated like the unique human beings that they are.

The doctors and staff at Omega Hospital are always happy to talk about their services and why Omega is such a top-notch facility. However, they don’t just want you to take their word for it. If you want to know why Omega is such a remarkable facility, talk to their patients.

Three patients who are eager to share their experiences at Omega are Sedette Duhe, Rene Redmann, and Toni Naquin. Duhe and Naquin both had a mastectomy with breast reconstruction. Redmann had already had a mastectomy at another hospital and had her reconstructive procedures at Omega. All three women praised many of the same aspects of Omega’s service.

The Feel

All of the patients interviewed commented on the comfortable, welcoming feel at Omega. While most hospitals have an institutional atmosphere that often leaves patients feeling intimidated and nervous (and they’re already dealing with anxiety to begin with), Omega strives to create a feeling of luxury, more like a high-end hotel or a spa than a hospital. “I didn’t feel like I was in a hospital at all,” Duhe said. “The only way you know it’s a hospital is because the staff is in scrubs.”

Patients at Omega do not share a room with another patient with only a curtain separating their beds. Each patient gets their own room, where patients and their families can feel at home. There’s room to breathe and move around. There are special robes for patients, flowers, a mini-bar, a microwave, a coffee maker, and high speed Internet access. It’s designed to feel like a patient’s home away from home.

The support of family and loved ones is crucial to a patient’s recovery. Emotional support makes the physical aspects of recovery easier. That’s why Omega makes sure that the atmosphere isn’t just comfortable for patients; it’s comfortable for families and guests, too. Family members can stay overnight without waking up to stiff, sore backs because they slept on a hard hospital cot. Redmann praised the presence of a Murphy bed in her room, which her husband (who is six feet tall) was able to sleep on comfortably.

In a city like New Orleans that prides itself on good food, the standard drab hospital cuisine is often particularly depressing for any New Orleanian confined to a hospital bed. Tasty comfort food can go a long way towards making a patient feel better. At Omega, patients can order from a number of local restaurants for themselves and their families. “It wasn’t your typical bland hospital food,” Naquin said.

Redmann’s breast reconstruction procedure necessitated at minimum a 3 night stay in Omega. The fourth night was optional. Normally, she would have done anything in her power to leave the hospital and go home, but she loved her stay at Omega so much that she chose to stay the fourth night. “I refer to Omega as the Ritz-Carlton of hospitals,” Redmann said.

The Nurses and Staff

Even though high-quality amenities are important, they wouldn’t matter much without compassionate care from everyone at Omega.

Omega prides itself on having a very low nurse-to-patient ratio. This ensures that each patient is getting individualized attention. Redmann said that in other hospitals, she felt bad about calling nurses, like she was inconveniencing them. But at Omega, her experience was the opposite. She said she felt like she was calling a friend. “Compassion is something that can’t be taught,” Redmann said. “You feel like they really want to help you, that you’re not just a job to them.”

Naquin said her nurse checked on her so much that she never even had to ask for anything. When her nurse would check on her at night, the nurse was always extra quiet and considerate of the fact that Naquin and her husband were sleeping.

The Doctors

When patients are about to undergo a procedure or have recently undergone one, questions abound. The average person understands very little about medicine, so it’s only natural to want to know more about the procedure that’s going to have such a big effect on your life. You want doctors to listen to you like they would a friend or a family member. For Duhe, who describes herself as someone who asks a lot of questions, Omega’s doctors and staff were always happy to address her questions and concerns in a thoughtful, friendly manner. “You could ask as many questions as you possibly could and you’d always get an answer,” Duhe said.

Naquin praised the manner in which Doctors Sadeghi and Allen prepared her for her procedure (a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction). She said they made her feel completely comfortable and explained to her exactly what she could expect after the procedure.

The Results

While bedside manner is important, it wouldn’t matter much if the physicians weren’t highly skilled at what they do. Redmann, who had a mastectomy in 2008 but didn’t have reconstruction until 2012, was looking to Omega to help her feel like a woman again after her battle with cancer. “I was just ready to get back to my normal womanhood,” Redmann said. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I got it back.”

Redmann was particularly happy with the work Drs. Sadeghi and Allen did for her. “He (Dr. Sadeghi) wants his patients to look their best and he really did that for me,” Redmann said. “I couldn’t be happier with the end result.”

The Best Option

When choosing a facility for mastectomies and/or breast reconstruction, women are in a stressful position. On top of the stress they are already feeling because of the cancer or its aftermath, they have the stress of choosing the best hospital to defeat the cancer and do so in a manner that’s as convenient and painless as possible. “There are so many options out there for a woman who has breast cancer,” Duhe said. “But there’s no doubt in my mind that I made the right choice.”

Omega is proud to feature innovate physicians like Dr. Bob Allen. Dr. Allen, a plastic surgeon specializing in microsurgical breast reconstruction, pioneered the DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator) flap procedure in 1992, which quickly became the gold standard for breast reconstruction around the world. In the past, women who wanted breast reconstruction without implants would have to have skin and fat and some muscle taken from their abdomen. The DIEP flap only takes skin and fat, giving women a breast reconstruction and a tummy tuck in one procedure.

How many DIEP flap procedures have you done at Omega?

I’ve done about 250 DIEP flaps at Omega Hospital in the past 4 years.

How long is the typical recovery period for a DIEP flap procedure?

The hospital stay is 3-4 days. Return to work is 2-6 weeks. Recovery is much quicker with the DIEP than the TRAM procedure since no muscle is sacrificed. DIEP patients have much less pain. Most patients are only taking Ibuprofen for pain by the second day after the surgery.

How long does the procedure itself take?

A unilateral DIEP takes 2.5 to 3.5 hours. A bilateral takes 3-5 hours.

If a patient has previously received liposuction or has low body fat in the abdomen, is there another option?

Yes. Starting in 2010, we’ve been able to transfer tissue from the posterior thigh region. For any woman who is interested in having a breast reconstruction, we have something to offer.

What are the benefits of using the body’s own skin and fat for reconstruction?

When you replace life with life, you get the best, most natural, and most permanent results.

The Omega Hospital is located at 2525 Severn Ave. in Metairie. For more information, or to schedule an initial appointment, visit their website at or call them at (504)832-4200 or 1-800-535-4177.