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Car accident saves Newburgh woman’s life

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 11:14 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Dawn Pettitt was taken to Ascension St. Vincent in Evansville to treat her broken pelvis and ankle following a car crash. But what they found was much more than broken bones.

“That’s when he [Dr. Victor Chavez] told me there was a spot on my lung and that we need to go get it tested for cancer,” Pettitt said.

Pettitt was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer, which is nearly impossible to catch. Nurse Tessa Knepper is the lung nodule coordinator who alerted Pettitt of her irregularity, with the use of a newly installed software. The system catches scans where abnormalities in the lungs are detected.

“Lung cancer can be curable if it’s caught early enough,” Knepper said. “That’s another big aspect that we focus on here, making sure that our patients get screened and the treatment they need soon enough to get to the best outcome.”

According to Dr. Victor Chavez and the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, especially in the later stages.

“We have here in the hospital, changed the whole equation from diagnosing 65% of patients in late stages, now we are diagnosing those patients in earlier stages in stage 1 and 2,” Dr. Chavez said.

He said patients in stage 1 have a survival rate of more than 70%. In this particular case, Knepper’s persistence to catch the cancer early led to Pettitt’s recovery.

“If it wasn’t for God in my life, and placing me in that car accident and putting me in the hospital for me to meet her (Knepper) and Dr. Chavez, there’s no telling where I would be in a year or two because I would’ve never gone in to get my lungs checked,” Pettitt said.

She was able to have surgery to remove the cancer. She encourages others not to hesitate getting checked if an abnormality is detected

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