SANFORD – Sarah Strong has the appropriate name.
Cameron’s wife and mother of two is the primary caregiver for her mother and grandmother. She also works tirelessly to serve numerous children in her church, ward, and through the Guardian ad Litem program. Sarah defines strongly.
When Strong, a Sanford native, sought relief for pain from benign tumors in her uterus, also called uterine fibroids, she found an equally powerful force in Caroline Mathis, a gynecologist at FirstHealth Obstetrics and Gynecology in Sanford.
“Caroline is the first obstetrics / gymnastics session that I felt like she really listened to me and gave me options,” Strong shared with friends in a post on Facebook. “I feel like she really took into account all of my concerns. I fought fibroids with severe pain for years, and she actually came up with a plan the first time I spoke. “
For 13 years, Strong endured extreme pain on her monthly menstrual cycle, often resulting in nausea, vomiting, and several days of bed rest with heating pads. Over-the-counter pain relievers didn’t work, and she didn’t want to rely on stronger medication or contraceptives to relieve the pain. At the age of 41, she wanted to avoid a hysterectomy if possible.
During Strong’s first appointment with Mathis, the nurse listened to Strong and considered her wishes. After an ultrasound scan to determine the size of the fibroid and a biopsy that ruled out cancer, Mathis Strong asked if she had ever heard of uterine fibroid embolization. She explained that the procedure involves an interventional radiologist inserting a catheter, or small, flexible tube, into an artery in her arm and leading it to the fibroid. Through the catheter, the doctor injects small particles into the artery that form a clot and block the blood supply to the fibroid. Without a source of nutrients, the fibroid shrinks within a few months and symptoms decrease.
Strong agreed with this approach, which does not require surgery and usually allows the patient to go home the same day or just spend one night in the hospital. Mathis joined her with Allen Joseph, MD, an interventional radiologist at Pinehurst Radiology and FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst. They agreed on June 1st for the trial.
“On the Wednesday before my procedure, Dr. Joseph and spoke to me for about 20 minutes, ”said Strong. “He went through the entire procedure and told me what to expect. He went through the pros and cons and made sure that I understood and that all of my questions were answered. “
At 6:00 a.m. on June 1, Strong and her husband arrived at Moore Regional Hospital. “Everyone was so nice,” she said. Dr. Joseph explained again what was going on and what to expect. The procedure was over within a few hours, and Strong was in a recovery room shortly thereafter.
Dr. Joseph had told her to prepare to spend the night in the hospital, but she was in no pain and was fine, so he and his colleagues argued and decided she could go home. “I was out at 7pm,” she said.
While Strong realizes that there is no guarantee that embolization of the uterine fibroid will completely shrink the tumor and that she may need surgery to remove it in the future, she is delighted with a plan of action she did not have before. “I love your positive reinforcement and your ‘we’re going to get you where you need to be’ attitude,” said Strong of Mathis, Dr. Joseph and her other health care providers. “I really felt like a person who was being listened to, who was being heard. I wasn’t just someone, I was someone important. “
Mathis has partnered with Pinehurst Surgical Clinic and FirstHealth to serve Strong and other women in Lee County and beyond. She is employed by Pinehurst Surgical Clinic but offers obstetrics and gynecology on FirstHealth’s Lee County campus at 2919 Beechtree Drive in Sanford on US Highways 1 and 15-501. With this partnership, residents in Lee and the surrounding counties will have access to specialized treatment that they would normally only get in Pinehurst in the south or Chapel Hill or Durham in the north.
“It was really convenient for me to go to Sanford because I know my way around a little better,” said Strong.
In addition to obstetrics / gynecology, patients can receive specialized neck, nose and throat treatments from the providers at Pinehurst Surgical Clinic on the FirstHealth Lee campus; Orthopedics; Urology; and vessel and vein.
“We are excited to be in Lee County so we can help Mrs. Strong and others who need quality, specialized medical care near their home,” said David Grantham, MD, president of Pinehurst Surgical Clinic. “The partnership with FirstHealth on the Lee Campus enables us to care for even more patients.”
FirstHealth’s 65,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2018, also houses offices for primary care, convenient care, back and neck pain, 3D mammography imaging services, oncology, physiotherapy, cardiac rehabilitation, and the region’s only medically-based fitness center. Neurological services are available through UNC Health Neurosurgery and Spine. A partnership with Pinehurst Medical Clinic offers cardiology and pulmonology.
Mickey Foster, CEO of FirstHealth, is also from Lee County and is excited to see more patients in the area have access to expanded care. “In rural areas like Lee County, it’s uncommon to have specialized medical care near where you live,” said Foster. “Our partnerships with Pinehurst Surgical Clinic and other providers make it possible.”
Strong looks forward to caring for even more people, especially children. A few years ago she completed a dual course of study in biblical studies and plans to continue her studies with a bachelor’s, master’s and possibly doctor’s degree in Christian pastoral care or Christian education. With the ability to spend fewer days in bed and more days on the go, their future looks bright.