For years, in snow, ice and rain, Cheryl Chorney drove her husband to get bloodwork at a lab once a month.
It was not easy for the Allentown couple, both in their 70s.
On especially bad days, John Chorney, who has Parkinson’s disease and hallucinates, Cheryl would take him in his wheelchair and call her son or daughter to help.
But that changed this past winter when she received a mailer from St. Luke’s Health Network announcing that it had launched a new mobile phlebotomy lab called St. Luke’s Lab Now.
A phlebotomist could visit a client’s house or office, draw blood and send it to a lab.
Chorney wanted to give the service a trial run initially during the rough winter months when mobility was difficult. The couple has kept the service ever since.
“It truly, truly is a godsend to me,” Chorney said. “This is the best thing that could have happened to us.”
Dayton Beasley, regional outreach lab manager for St. Luke’s Health Network, said the Chorneys’ reaction has been typical.
“It is a minority of patients who are one-time users,” Beasley said. “Most are recurring users.”
A one-time visit costs $25. Patients who get lab work done more than once in a month pay $20 per visit.
Since St. Luke’s Health Network debuted the mobile phlebotomy service last November, it has served about 200 people and continues to see steady growth in Lehigh and Northampton counties, he said. Service has recently expanded as far north as East Stroudsburg.
Beasley said the mobile lab was created to help a large number of people in the region who either cannot visit a lab because they have medical issues or lack transportation, or, like many working professionals, cannot find time in their schedules or get time off from work.
CONVENIENCE IS KEY
Nikki Coles, a St. Luke’s phlebotomist who visits seven to 10 patients a day, including John Chorney, said, “Patients are very grateful for the service because it has been a convenience for them.”
Coles, who wears a uniform and an identification badge, drives her personal vehicle to the client’s home or office. She carries a medical kit with items such as needles, vials, hand sanitizer, bandages, gloves and a tourniquet and a briefcase with documents typically issued at a lab, such as privacy and consent forms and labels for vials.
“When we register the patients [on the phone], we ask them if there’s a place to draw the blood,” said Coles, who may need a table, chair or sofa where the patient can lie down.
“We make the area suitable to draw blood.”
EYE ON THE WEATHER
Some of the lab work has more urgency than others to get back to the testing facility within a particular time frame, she said.
“We have to take all that into consideration, such as how long it will take to draw blood and get it back,” Coles said.
Since Coles, like her colleague Yelesy Morales, essentially are on the road making house calls, they keep their eye on weather reports. If it’s snowy or icy, they wear ice grippers on their shoes and carry salt in their car trunks.
“We’re well prepared,” Coles said.
They’ll ask patients what the conditions are like outside their home or if they’ve had a chance to shovel their driveways. They work around it or reschedule.
The Chorneys have become very fond of Coles, who always calls them right before she arrives.
Cheryl Chorney said Coles makes her husband feel at ease and marveled at the convenience of St. Luke’s mobile lab.
“Before, I had no choice when it snowed,” she said. “He needed his bloodwork done every month to get his medicine. You can’t just get a refill and call it in to a drugstore.
“I don’t know who thought of it, but it is the perfect solution to our situation. It’s one less thing I have to worry about.”