ROCKINGHAM — The abdominal pain and a disturbing sense of choking had become so uncomfortable that Dana Bennett was beginning to think she had a serious health problem.
An appointment with Dr. T.J. Pulliam of the FirstHealth Digestive Health Center in Rockingham, and his referral for a follow-up exam in the imaging department at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital, helped ease her concerns.
The procedure, called a HIDA-scan, confirmed what Pulliam suspected, a problem with Bennett’s gallbladder that was found to be functioning at only 14 percent. Surgery would be necessary, Bennett was told, but would take care of her problem — a fairly common Digestive Health Center diagnosis.
“Dr. Pulliam was just super, super nice and was very understanding of my symptoms,” Bennett said.
With the diagnosis, Pulliam referred Bennett to Dr. Amelia Jeyapalan, a general surgeon with FirstHealth General Surgery in Rockingham, who also sees patients in the Digestive Health Center. Medication helped Bennett “to function” until Jeyapalan could operate on Jan. 26 at Richmond Memorial.
Except for “just a little pain,” which she has been assured is normal and will eventually go away, and now completely rid of the choking sensation, Bennett is feeling fine. She is also “very satisfied, very happy” about the convenience of the Digestive Health Center and for the professionalism and courtesy of its physicians and staff.
“Dr. Jeyapalan came to the same office (as Dr. Pulliam),” she said. “It was very convenient. I was very glad of that. They knew it was a big deal to me, but they were very reassuring. I felt very confident about their services.”
Bennett said the recent procedure proved to be a much better experience than her one previous surgery at age 19. This time, she was in the hospital for only a few hours — in at 9 a.m. and back at her Rockingham home by 2:30 p.m. — and on medical leave from her job as a Walmart pharmacy department manager for only two and a half weeks.
“I was also glad to have had my surgery at Richmond Memorial,” she said. “There was so much less stress on my family and on me.”
With offices located in the Medical Office Building at 921 Long Drive in Rockingham (beside Richmond Memorial Hospital), the FirstHealth Digestive Health Center is staffed by Dr. Pulliam, a board certified FirstHealth gastroenterologist; and by four board certified general surgeons: H. Willy Chu, M.D.; Fabian E. Alzamora, M.D.; Zeidan F. Zeidan, M.D.; and Dr. Jeyapalan.
According to Pulliam, this collaborative approach to gastroenterology and general surgery is a national trend in medical services and is a common practice in many parts of the country including such major medical centers as the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“Our clinicians work together collaboratively so we can handle more of the community’s digestive health needs,” he said.
FirstHealth’s gastroenterology services are available for the diagnosis and treatment of such common disorders as peptic ulcer disease, gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD, abdominal pain and gastrointestinal malignancies as well as liver, gallbladder and bile duct disorders.
For more information on the services provided by the FirstHealth Digestive Health Center, visit www.firsthealth.org/GI.
Brenda Bouser works in corporate communications for FirstHealth of the Carolinas.