The expression, “Having it all,” means different things to different people. To 70-year-old Lonnie Hawbaker, “having it all” describes his ability to have all his healthcare needs met in one place without having to travel. A retired civil engineer, he worked for the city of West Des Moines for many years before joining a national consulting firm and traveling the country. When he retired, he settled in Winterset, IA. After an ankle injury and with the encouragement of his daughter, RCH employee Jennifer Kellner, Lonnie moved to Mt. Ayr in April 2019.
It was the move to Mt. Ayr that helped him get a better handle on his health. A Type 2 diabetic, Lonnie wanted to get established right away with a local primary care physician. Jennifer recommended Katie Willcox, DO at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic. “Dr. Willcox lives in Winterset, so I knew they’d have a shared connection,” she said. When Dr. Willcox learned that Lonnie had not had a colonoscopy in more than 20 years, she urged him to do so right away. “I wasn’t excited about getting one,” admitted Lonnie. “I thought why bother? We have no family history of colon cancer and I wasn’t having any issues. But with a new start and a new doctor, I thought I should probably listen to her.” The fact that he could have the screening at Ringgold County Hospital with Ed Wehling, DO also factored into his decision. “If I had needed to go to Des Moines, I wouldn’t have done it. It was convenient to do it here.” Dr. Wehling discovered some polyps that were not unusual, but he also found a pre-cancerous mass where the upper and lower colons come together. Lonnie explained, “They didn’t think it was cancer yet, but wanted to take it out as a precaution.”
About two months after Lonnie’s colonoscopy he had the surgery after getting clearance from his heart doctor and the rest of his medical team. During that time, Lonnie was able to work with physical therapists at Ringgold County Hospital too. “Both Dr. Wehling and the cardiologist thought it was a good idea to get my body in good shape before the surgery.”
“We were able to coordinate everything locally,” added Jennifer. “His pre-surgery physical, physical therapy, lab work, everything was done right here. We didn’t have to travel anywhere. From a patient’s perspective, it was wonderful.” Lonnie had surgery in late October 2019 and Dr. Wehling removed about 8 inches of his colon. “I’m feeling great today,” reported Lonnie. “It took about three days to recover from the surgery and then I spent about a week in skilled care. I had very little pain. Melissa Friedrich, the anesthesiologist, used new pain blocking techniques that really worked. I hardly had to take any pain medication afterward.”
About a month after the surgery, Lonnie celebrated his 70th birthday surrounded by his family. “For me, his birthday was a really big deal,” said Jennifer. “Finding the mass in his colon scared me a little. I realized that if we hadn’t found it, we might not be celebrating many more birthdays with him. We might not have had much more time together.” Both father and daughter agree that since Lonnie moved to Mt. Ayr, it’s been nice to be closer together. They go to church together. They make weekly grocery runs and spend family time together. It seems that for now, they really do have it all.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. To schedule a colonoscopy for yourself or a loved one, contact Ringgold County Hospital at 641-464-4433.