The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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October 5, 2012

Mercy Breast Center reopens after being destroyed in 2011 tornado

JOPLIN, Mo. — About 500 women who had been waiting for the reopening of the Mercy Breast Center to get their mammograms must wait no longer.

An open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday for Mercy Breast Center on the second floor of the Thousand Oaks Medical Building, 1905 W. 32nd St., marking another step in the recovery of Mercy Hospital Joplin after the May 2011 tornado.

The new site for Mercy Breast Center will be in use until the new hospital at 50th Street and Hearnes Boulevard opens in March 2015.

Joe Craigmile, a member of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, became choked with emotion when he recognized officials at the center, as he recalled three family members he has lost to cancer.

The ribbon was green, signifying a business that has reopened since the tornado.

“We love doing the green ribbon-cuttings,” Craigmile said.

Dr. W. Curt Dandridge, medical director and surgeon at Mercy Breast Center, said there was a waiting list of 500 or so women who had put off getting mammograms after the tornado. He said all of those are at low risk for breast cancer. Anyone who was at high risk he insisted they go elsewhere to get a mammogram.

“It’s taken a huge amount of planning and money,” Dandridge said about the effort to reopen. “We wanted to make sure we had the right equipment.”

Since the tornado, the breast center was operating at Mercy McCune-Brooks Hospital in Carthage and the Mercy Maude Norton Mobile Mammography Unit, based in Columbus, Kan.

Dandridge said Mercy Breast Center represents an $800,000 investment by Mercy.

Nancy Betasso, a nurse Dandridge credited with being essential to the reopening, said this was a big step.

“Everything was pretty chaotic after the tornado,” Bettasso said. She said before the tornado, the breast center was performing 3,500 breast screenings a year.

“McCune-Brooks took a large volume of those patients,” she said. “We had a lot of patients say, ‘We’re going to wait until you open.’”

Bettasso said the breast center opened unofficially on Sept. 17.

“We’re already starting to fill up,” she said.

She said the new location offers everything the center had before, including a mammography machine, ultrasound and biopsies.

She said if it becomes apparent from demand that the center needs another mammography unit, it will get it.

She said some patients who were diagnosed with breast cancer after the tornado were faced with that trauma in addition to dealing with tornado recovery.

“Post-tornado was very challenging for many patients,” Bettasso said. “Some stayed local and went to Freeman (Health System). Some went to Springfield and Rogers, Ark. Some went to McCune-Brooks. They went through the whole gamut.’’

Bettasso said the reopened location will be a real benefit.

“It’s been kind of a long journey for us,” Betasso said. “We’ve had nothing but support from Mercy.”

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