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Published on June 01, 2022

When Nurse Becomes Patient

woman in green jacket smiles in sunshine

After a routine check-up revealed cause for concern, Lindsay Hanculak sought care from the home team at EvergreenHealth

For more than 12 years, Lindsay Hanculak has worked as a nurse in EvergreenHealth's Kirkland Emergency Department. In 2018, she found herself not only caring for others but becoming a patient herself.

After receiving concerning bloodwork results that indicated abnormalities with her parathyroid, Hanculak scheduled an appointment with EvergreenHealth specialist Dr. Timo Hakkarainen.

Not only had Hanculak witnessed Dr. Hakkaranien's exemplary patient care first-hand, she was also impressed that he's one of only three fellowship-trained endocrine surgeons in Washington state.

"Part of my practice involves performing diagnostic ultrasounds at the bedside, which is not always done for hyperparathyroidism," Dr. Hakkarainen explained. "For Lindsay, we were able to detect a large nodule on her thyroid during her first consultation. I was concerned that her parathyroid problem was now secondary, and I was concerned she had thyroid cancer."

A biopsy confirmed their suspicions; the 38-year-old learned she had papillary thyroid cancer. Within days, Dr. Hakkarainen performed a total thyroidectomy, meticulously freeing Hanculak's laryngeal nerve – which helps control speaking and swallowing – from the tumor's grip.

"Lindsay came to me at the right time," Dr. Hakkarainen shared. "Thyroid cancer can often be symptomless and it's becoming increasingly more common in the U.S."

Hanculak was thrilled to learn her surgery was a success. Though her life is different without a thyroid, experiencing a few common side effects is a small price to pay for living without cancer, she says.

"Dr. Hakkarainen has been an amazing partner and supporter. Not only does he make his patients feel cared for clinically, he also deeply cares on an emotional level, too."

Did You Know?

Dr. Hakkarainen and the team at EvergreenHealth are among the few providers who offer two innovative, minimally invasive surgical techniques that leave no visible or hidden scars for some patients undergoing thyroid surgery. Learn more at www.evergreenhealth.com/surgical-clinic.

Timo Hakkarainen Meet the Expert

Timo Hakkarainen, MD

Dr. Timo Hakkarainen has advanced fellowship training in both endocrine and minimally invasive surgery from Mount Sinai and Beth Israel hospitals in New York.

As a general surgeon, Dr. Hakkarainen specializes in minimally invasive surgery and laparoscopic surgery for all manner of hernias and gallbladder disease. He also specializes in advanced laparoscopic surgery of the colon, small intestine, and stomach including advanced training in minimally invasive surgery for hiatal hernias and chronic acid reflux.

As an endocrine surgeon, Dr. Hakkarainen specializes in the treatment of all manner of thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal gland disease. He specializes in minimally invasive surgery for thyroid cancer, benign thyroid disease, parathyroid disease, and both benign and malignant adrenal gland disease. He is experienced in advanced endoscopic and robot-assisted approaches including remote-access (hidden scar) procedures for select patients with thyroid disease. These approaches make it possible to avoid a visible neck incision for some patients.

Read Timo Hakkarainen's full profile

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