Patient Stories

People trust our health care providers with their most valuable assets—their time and their health. We know that in health care, small moments can carry a lot of meaning. So our focus is on listening carefully to each person, engaging them with language they understand, and delivering expert care that is worthy of their trust.

Our primary care doctors and caregivers understand every patient is different. That’s why we approach their care using extensive medical expertise but also take into account the patient’s experiences, behaviors, feelings and perceptions.

See how this approach comes to life in the following patient stories:

  • Dana's Story

    "My Virginia Mason Franciscan Health family" is how Dana Manciagli, 55, describes her health care team at the Issaquah and Seattle medical centers. "I know I have a lot of people looking out for me," says Dana, who became a Virginia Mason Franciscan Health patient in 1998 after she moved to the area from the East Coast.

    Dana was referred to her primary care physician by a friend, and she "liked the Issaquah team right away, and that has never changed." When her health issues began in 2002, the bond with her Virginia Mason Franciscan Health caregivers only grew stronger. In good health all her life, Dana had a routine mammogram that year, followed by an ultrasound to further examine an area of concern. This was followed by a biopsy at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health’s Breast Clinic, in Seattle, that confirmed what Dana's primary care doctor suspected. Dana had cancer. She was quickly seen by Virginia Mason Franciscan Health specialists for a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. The operation and follow-up care, which Dana describes as "the best," appeared to eradicate the cancer.

    It was, however, the beginning of what continues to be an ongoing battle for Dana. After her bout with cancer, a genetic counselor at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health found she carried the BRCA gene. This meant that Dana and her identical twin, Tracy, were at continued high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. In 2005, Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer. Both she and Dana had double mastectomies that year and their ovaries removed as a precaution.

    Tracy's cancer returned and took her life in 2014, and cancer was detected in Dana for the third time in early 2015. Her treatment at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health has included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Dana says, despite everything, she keeps her focus on the positive. "I have the best of the best looking after me, and I feel great."

    “I have the best of the best looking after me, and I feel great.”

    Today, with the constant monitoring of her primary care physician and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health specialists, Dana is focused on "living her legacy rather than leaving it." Last year, she was the biggest fundraiser in the American Cancer Society's "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" event, and she is an active fundraiser for Virginia Mason's Cancer Institute, as well.

    Dana continues to work as a global career coach, author and professional speaker. She got married this year and is planning to travel with her husband, mother, adult sons and twin sister Tracy's son to Mexico as soon as she finishes her current course of radiation therapy.

    To learn more about Dana, go to www.DanaManciagli.com. To get help finding a Virginia Mason Franciscan Health primary care physician, call us at 206-223-6881.

     

  • David's Story

    David Johansen, 65, is more active than most people half his age. He says it's important to have a primary care doctor who understands and supports his lifestyle. Among other things, David enjoys long-distance bike rides and cross-country skiing. Recently, after a long bike ride, he had a concern about his heart. "Something just didn't seem right," remembers David. "I had never felt like that before."

    A heart specialist at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health found he had atrial flutter, an abnormality in the rhythm of his heart. Before deciding about treatment, David talked to his longtime primary care physician. "He's good listener," says David, "and he always thoroughly reviews my history, explains clearly what he thinks is going on, and what the best treatment options are." His primary care doctor referred him to a cardiologist who had experience with active patients like David. "It gave me confidence that the cardiologist would understand my activity level," says David, "and would get me back to doing the things I enjoy."

    In August, David underwent an outpatient cardiac catheter ablation that addressed the electrical misfiring in his heart. The minimally invasive procedure was a success, and four days later David was cleared to resume his normal activities. "My primary care doctor directed me to the right specialist who understood how important it was to me to stay active," says David. "I appreciate that he knows me well, and I trust that whatever he recommends, it's going to be a good choice for who I am."

    “Every time I go to Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, I feel like everyone is working on my behalf to be sure I get the best care.”

    David compares the work of his primary care doctor to that of the quarterback on a football team. "He navigates the maze of the medical system for me," says David, "and always makes the handoff to the appropriate person. Every time I go to Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, I feel like everyone is working on my behalf to be sure I get the best care."

    In addition to enjoying outdoor activities, David and his wife, Patrice McDermott, stay involved with their two grandchildren and three adult sons who live in different states. David, a retired attorney, is also a trustee for a charitable foundation that provides scholarships to young people on their way to college. "I'm glad to be able to help them achieve their goals, and I like being in touch with the younger generation. It helps keep me young."

    Also keeping David young are his outdoor activities. With the help of his primary care physician at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, he plans to enjoy them for many years to come.

  • Johnnie's Story

    "Thorough" is the word Johnnie Butler, 68, uses to describe the care she receives at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. Her primary care physician and other health care specialists, she says, "don't stop until they figure out what is going on."

    An example she gives is the time, years ago, when she became so tired and weak that she had to leave work early. Her primary care physician at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health was so concerned that he accompanied her for a chest X-ray and other tests. Johnnie remembers that he stayed after-hours because "he wanted to know what was going on immediately." 

    As Johnnie drove home, her doctor called and told her to come back to the hospital. She was quickly admitted and given an emergency blood transfusion. Johnnie, who was on blood thinners at the time, had been losing blood in her stool. After a few days in the hospital, Johnnie's condition stabilized. She returned home and had no further problems.

    Then, almost 10 years ago, Johnnie began having trouble breathing. Her husband drove her to the closest medical facility, which was in Renton, where she was admitted with double pneumonia. Even though it wasn't a Virginia Mason Franciscan Health facility, her primary care doctor consulted with the facility's physicians. "He made sure I was well taken care of," remembers Johnnie. 

    Johnnie's long relationship with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health began in the mid-1980s when she was still a smoker. With the help of her primary care physician, she was able to break that habit and become healthier. She says she was never lectured about it and, throughout her relationship with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, has always been treated with respect and honesty. "My doctor and the other people at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health tell me the truth," says Johnnie. "I appreciate that."

    “We are enjoying life to the fullest and know that, as far as our health is concerned, we are in good hands.”

    Johnnie's husband, Donald, is also a Virginia Mason Franciscan Health patient and sees the same primary care physician as Johnnie. Four years ago, he went in for a stress test that he failed. A few hours later, he had emergency open-heart surgery. The procedure took care of the problem he was having. 

    "We are both followed and our health checked regularly," says Johnnie, who is a proud promoter of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health to her friends and family, some of whom are now also patients. One friend with epilepsy even flies in from Alaska to go to Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. "She knows she's getting the best care, and I know it, too," says Johnnie.

    Today, Johnnie and Donald are retired and keeping busy with the activities of the more than a dozen grandchildren in their blended family. "We are enjoying life to the fullest and know that, as far as our health is concerned, we are in good hands."

  • Lorraine's Story

    Lorraine Amman-Blau, 66, can’t remember how long she's been a Virginia Mason Franciscan Health patient. But she believes it was the late 1980s that she first received care. She became unwell, and doctors at another health care organization couldn’t determine what was wrong. She was so ill, in fact, that she began using a cane and had difficulty with simple tasks like peeling a potato.

    Lorraine's mother suggested Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, and her first visit to the Issaquah Medical Center impressed her. "It was different. My doctor really listened to me," remembers Lorraine. Her doctor was confident he could help. Eventually, he determined that Lorraine had a bacterial infection and prescribed medication that took care of the problem. "From that point on, all my family members went to Virginia Mason Franciscan Health," says Lorraine, who describes visiting the Issaquah facility today as "like going to see my best friends."

    “From that point on, all my family members went to Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.”

    Over the years, Lorraine has been treated by her primary care physician and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health specialists for, among other things, bunions, carpal tunnel syndrome, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and diverticulitis. The Spine Clinic taught her exercises to prevent back surgery, and she received diabetic counseling for prediabetes. She has had inpatient and outpatient surgeries, describes each of her experiences as "excellent," and adds that "when I’m having problems, either physical or emotional, the staff at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health helps me find the answers to return to good health."

    One thing Lorraine says she particularly appreciates about her care is that both her primary care physician and specialists will "try the simple thing first" before doing an intrusive treatment like surgery. She likes that "everything is explained so that I understand what is happening and why, and I can work with my doctors to determine the best course of action for my situation."

    Another thing Lorraine appreciates is the care Virginia Mason Franciscan Health has provided to her husband, who has high blood pressure and other health issues, and to her adult son, who has autism. "I know that when there is a problem, they're getting wonderful care from people who know them and care about them," says Lorraine.

    Since retiring from Boeing in 2005, Lorraine says she has been so busy with family concerns that she's waiting for the real retirement to happen. A trip to Europe is on the distant horizon. For now, Lorraine is grateful she's in good health and that should a concern arise, her Virginia Mason Franciscan Health medical team is right there, ready to take care of it.

  • Lucille's Story

    A few years ago, Lucille Walton, 84, was living in Mount Vernon and not feeling especially well. Her husband, Wesley, had died in 2009, and she thought perhaps she was exhausted from taking care of him during his final bout with cancer.

    Lucille moved back to the Seattle area in 2010 to a retirement community and enjoyed the many activities offered until her energy began to flag. "I couldn't do a lot of things I had been doing," she remembers. "I thought that maybe it was my age and that there was nothing to be done." Lucille was also losing weight and not sleeping well, and the doctors she was seeing were not helping. She asked her daughters to come over and pick out furniture and personal items in case she didn't have long to live.

    One of Lucille's daughters is a Virginia Mason Franciscan Health nurse, and she was having none of that talk. She arranged for Lucille to see a Virginia Mason Franciscan Health primary care doctor, and after just one visit, Lucille's health was back on track. "She really listened to me," says Lucille about her doctor, who discovered Lucille was diabetic. On that very first visit, the doctor and a nurse with advanced training in diabetes talked to Lucille about how, in addition to taking insulin, she needed to watch what she ate. Lucille says, "They both told me, 'We're going to get you well,' and they did!"

    “They both told me, 'We're going to get you well,' and they did!”

    Lucille followed the advice she was given and began feeling better right away. "Now I feel like I have a whole team taking care of me," says Lucille. "They keep an eye on everything." This past spring, Lucille was feeling so good she decided to sign up for a walk-a-thon to raise money for a Federal Way nonprofit that helps low-income people in her community.

    Even though she uses a walker, Lucille was determined to participate. She trained for weeks, each day going a little farther on the grounds of her retirement facility. When the walk-a-thon happened, her sponsors included the Virginia Mason Franciscan Health team taking care of her. "They were helping me again," says Lucille. "That's just the kind of people they are."

    Today, Lucille is enjoying outings with two daughters who live nearby, and the other three visit her as often as they can. "I'm a lucky person," says Lucille, who says she's "thrilled" to be enjoying her life again.

  • Norman's Story

    Years ago, when Norman Evenson's in-laws were living in Oregon, their health began to fail. Their doctor recommended moving to the Seattle area where they could get their health care at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. They did just that. Norm credits the care they received with helping them live healthier lives for many more years.

    Based on his in-laws' experience, Norm decided to make an appointment with a Virginia Mason Franciscan Health primary care doctor in 1989 and has been with that doctor ever since. Norm, who is now retired, had relatively good health care with his employer at the time of his switch to Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. But he's glad he made the change. "It was a good decision," he says. "My doctor has stayed on top of everything and kept me well."

    In particular, Norm's doctor has helped him manage his weight and cholesterol levels. "If I have a specific problem, I know he will send me to the right specialist," says Norm, who was diagnosed several years ago with myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease that can cause muscle weakness.

    The muscles around Norm's eyes were the most affected, and his Virginia Mason Franciscan Health medical team sent him to a Virginia Mason Franciscan Health neurologist with an international reputation in treating myasthenia gravis. That doctor prescribed medication that has helped stabilize Norm's condition, but he is still followed closely by his primary care physician. "He's a good listener and pays close attention to all aspects of my entire health," says Norm.

    “My doctor has stayed on top of everything and kept me well.”

    Over the years, other members of Norm's family have been cared for at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. His wife, Linda, was recently treated for cancer, and two of his sons are also primary care patients. One son died many years ago due to an unknown heart condition. Norm's doctor helped him understand what happened and whether the condition might be a concern for him or others in his family.

    Nowadays, Norm, 78, plays golf when he can and stays active looking after their 11-acre property in Duvall. He doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about his health because, he says, his Virginia Mason Franciscan Health doctor is on top of things. "If there's something I don't think about, he has already thought of it, and we address it before any problems arise," says Norm.