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Patient Stories

Winding Road to Recovery
By NSMC 2007 Winter

When a check-up with her primary care physician, Maury McGough, M.D., revealed a frightening diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia last summer, Cookie Melanson began receiving treatment at several hospitals within Partners HealthCare. This could have challenged the continuity and safety of her care, if not for a new form of electronic medical record (EMR) that followed her every step of the way. A Peabody-area realtor whose charity golf tournaments have raised more than $55,000 for NSMC’s Cancer Center programs since 2001, Melanson needed a specific type of chemotherapy for this rare cancer, as well as specialized cardiac care due to a heart attack she suffered in 2000. Unique expertise in this combination of care was readily available at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and Melanson’s trips into the city began.

Her treatment hit a major bump in the road last fall, however, when she had another heart attack. Melanson recuperated at Shaughnessy-Kaplan Rehabilitation Hospital and her cancer care was put on hold. When she was well enough to resume the four-times-weekly chemotherapy sessions, Melanson made up her mind to stay on the North Shore. With help from the NSMC Cancer Center’s newly adopted EMR system—a secure, electronic file of a patient’s health history, medical visit notes, test results, prescriptions and other information—Joel Schwartz, M.D., Medical Director of Oncology Services at the NSMC Cancer Center in Peabody, began orchestrating Melanson’s care plan. “Because of the electronic medical record, I didn’t have to commute into Boston four times a week on top of the stress of chemotherapy and recovering from a heart attack,” Melanson said. “Each of my doctors had instant access to my medical record and worked together to create a treatment plan tailor-made for me.” In January, Melanson received news that her leukemia was in remission.