Rural cancer patients access care closer to home

Jul 7, 2023, 1:02 PM

DELTA, Utah — At his farm 12 miles outside of Delta, Dave Walker grows hay on 130 acres of land. It’s a physical job that Walker wouldn’t trade for anything.

“I’ve been farming for 40 years. I love it,” Walker said.

But a year ago, the 66-year-old started feeling quite different.

“I was really tired. They took a blood test,” he recalled. “Basically, my bone marrow is not making red blood cells.”

(Ken Fall/KSL TV)

Walker was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS. He had to travel 200 miles round trip to a hospital in Provo to receive treatments — including blood transfusions and chemotherapy. The toll on his health was enormous.

“Once a month planning on seven straight days to Provo. It’s expensive and it’s such a terrible burden on you,” Walker said. “There’s been times I couldn’t drive myself.”

Intermountain Health’s Cece Willoughby — who helps direct Walker’s care — understands the physical toll.

“He gets sick on the way back and he has to stop and sit in the car and throw up,” Willoughby said. “Just a healthy person driving up there and back is exhausting, let alone when you’re getting treatments.”

But in May, all of that changed when Intermountain Health expanded its TeleOncology services to the Delta Community Hospital, and elsewhere in Central Utah.

(Ken Fall/KSL TV)

No longer does Walker have to drive to Provo for treatments, or to talk with his cancer specialists.

“The doctor will just get on the telecall and tell me what’s going on and it works really good,” Walker said.

Today, Walker says the services he accesses in his hometown have made all the difference in how he feels and have made it so he can get back on a tractor doing the things he loves.

“I’m feelin’ a lot better,” he added. “You worry about a lot of stuff and your family worries. I don’t have that burden now. It’s just peace of mind.”

(Ken Fall/KSL TV)

In addition to the oncology services available in Delta and Fillmore, Intermountain Health plans to expand its telehealth oncology services throughout Utah.

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Rural cancer patients access care closer to home