Airmen possess X-ray vision

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

If it walks, sounds and looks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Likewise, if symptoms, breathing and X-rays look like a lung infection, it’s probably a lung infection.

The 23d Medical Support Squadron’s radiology diagnostic imaging specialists use sophisticated technology to capture images of the human body to assist physicians in diagnosing Team Moody members quickly and accurately.

 The section consists of two Airmen, with occasional help from outside sources when necessary. Currently, radiology has one Airman from Davis Monthan Air Force Base assisting them.

“Radiology is absolutely crucial to the Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeffrey Nelligan, 355th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imagining technologist. “Without [us], I think a lot of things could be misdiagnosed. You’ve heard the saying, ‘seeing is believing.’ If you can see it on a picture, you know what you’re looking for and can see where it is.

“It is radiology’s job to figure out what’s going on and the [doctor] is able to see the radiologist report and help the patient along their way,” Nelligan added.

The team is responsible for X-raying anyone in the local populous of 10,000, and see their job as step one in imaging and diagnosing the Air Force family.

 “We are the benchmark of the other modalities,” said Master Sgt. Tracey McLendon, 23d MDSS flight chief of diagnostic imaging. “When I say modalities, I’m meaning specialized fields like ultrasound, MRI and CT.

“When you get an X-ray, it gives the doctor something to look at and make the decision if an ultrasound or MRI is necessary,” added McLendon. ”For instance, if you’re going downtown for an abdomen ultrasound, they’ll normally check to see if you’ve had an X-ray first.”

With radiology being right down the hallway from Moody’s doctors, it allows for quick and easy turnover of X-ray images. In addition, newer technologies have also assisted in the timeliness of diagnosis.

McLendon said within the past year and a half radiology was renovated with the addition of a digital imaging system, allowing expedited image processing times. 

“It used to take two minutes for one image,” said Mclendon. “An elbow [X-ray] can take four photos, so two minutes for each photo and it’ll take nearly 10 minutes for the whole process. Now that we have this newer technology, it takes 30 seconds per image. The patient can go from waiting nearly 10 minutes to around two.”

With the quicker processing times and recent technological updates, doctors are able to see images sooner than before.

“The [doctors] have access to one of our apps,” said McLendon. “So as soon as we shoot the X-ray, they can see it from their computer. This helps us help the patients quicker.”

More importantly, McLendon explained how an X-ray image, in some circumstances, could mean the difference between an ordinary injury and something much more drastic.

“Say someone broke their leg, all you’re going to see is the compound fracture,” said McLendon. “Without the X-ray, you may not see the small [bone] fragments that can travel and hit other organs or sever muscles. Those bone fragments could easily hit something else and become life threatening.”

Since the stakes can sometimes be high, Nelligan added that routine X-rays become comforting for the section.

“It’s a good day when the worst you get is, ‘I broke my finger because I jammed it in the door’,” said Nelligan. “I can deal with that compared to, ‘he’s not breathing, he has a knife in his chest and we can’t remove it. We need to take as quick of image as possible and by the way he may seizure out.’

 “You don’t want to deal with that because that’s not a good day for the patient or you,” Nelligan added.

Although stressful days occur, McLendon added that she wouldn’t ever want to leave radiology.

“With X-ray I feel like I have more of an impact,” said McLendon. “I can actually see what I do affecting the mission. When the member is deployed or TDY, the dependents can feel comfortable saying ‘hey I know Moody Air Force Base will take care of us.’

“I’m very proud of our whole career field and I can actually say with confidence, I love this job,” McLendon added.