When Nurse Becomes Patient

After a routine check-up revealed cause for concern, Lindsay Hanculak sought care from the home team at EvergreenHealth

For more than 12 years, Lindsay Hanculak has worked as a nurse in EvergreenHealth’s Kirkland Emergency Department. In 2018, she found herself not only caring for others but becoming a patient herself.

After receiving concerning bloodwork results that indicated abnormalities with her parathyroid, Hanculak scheduled an appointment with EvergreenHealth specialist Dr. Timo Hakkarainen.

Not only had Hanculak witnessed Dr. Hakkaranien’s exemplary patient care first-hand, she was also impressed that he’s one of only three fellowship-trained endocrine surgeons in Washington state.

“Part of my practice involves performing diagnostic ultrasounds at the bedside, which is not always done for hyperparathyroidism,” Dr. Hakkarainen explained. “For Lindsay, we were able to detect a large nodule on her thyroid during her first consultation. I was concerned that her parathyroid problem was now secondary, and I was concerned she had thyroid cancer.”

A biopsy confirmed their suspicions; the 38-year-old learned she had papillary thyroid cancer. Within days, Dr. Hakkarainen performed a total thyroidectomy, meticulously freeing Hanculak’s laryngeal nerve – which helps control speaking and swallowing – from the tumor’s grip.

“Lindsay came to me at the right time,” Dr. Hakkarainen shared. “Thyroid cancer can often be symptomless and it’s becoming increasingly more common in the U.S.”

Hanculak was thrilled to learn her surgery was a success. Though her life is different without a thyroid, experiencing a few common side effects is a small price to pay for living without cancer, she says.

“Dr. Hakkarainen has been an amazing partner and supporter. Not only does he make his patients feel cared for clinically, he also deeply cares on an emotional level, too.”


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