Registered radiology technologists Brock Baumberger, Heather Parsons and Kadi Untch started their careers at Akron Children’s while students at the University of Akron and Akron Children’s Radiography School.
Today the 3 are full-time employees in the radiology department, specializing in different imaging technologies.
Untch is a fluoroscopy specialist. Fluoroscopy is a special type of X-ray that uses contrast to highlight different parts of the body. It uses continuous imaging to show motion inside the body for things like swallowing.
She performs an esophagram (upper GI) on 9-year-old Kaylee, who’s been having swallowing difficulties for about a month. Although Kaylee hasn’t had any choking episodes, her mom said her daughter has been sticking to soft food because she’s afraid of food getting stuck in her throat.
“An esophagram looks for abnormalities in the esophagus,” Untch said. “It could be genetic or because she has a stricture or other abnormality. If it turns out there’s an issue with her anatomy, the radiologist will recommend a surgical consult.”
For the test to work, Kaylee must consume barium consistencies so Untch can observe her swallowing different textures.
“The white liquid will show up dark on the monitor and will allow me to watch it move through the intestine,” Untch said.
Untch has a unique way of making barium sound palatable to her young patients.
“We’re going to have you drink some thick fruit punch, eat some marshmallow fluff-like stuff and then the best part – a barium cookie,” she said. “The cookie is really good. We have a special bakery that makes them for us.”
Kaylee looks unconvinced.
Untch explains to Kaylee how the test will work.
“This table tilts up and down in order to get the barium to move,” she said. “It’s like a lame Cedar Point ride.”
The test takes 15 minutes and Untch doesn’t see anything alarming, but sends the test off to the radiologist for interpretation.
“This is the least invasive test we can do as a first step in diagnosis,” Untch said. “The next step will likely be a referral to a gastroenterologist.”
Down the hall Baumberger is preparing to do a helical CT scan on 16-year-old Rachel, who has been suffering from posterior headaches for about a year.
“This machine can scan any body part,” Baumberger said. “Because it can scan so quickly it reduces the need for us to sedate our patients in order to keep them still.”
Patients need to be totally motionless for the CT to capture a good image.
Baumberger straps Rachel’s head down and tells her she needs to be completely still.
“I can adjust the angle of the scan to capture the image I want,” he said. “I always avoid the orbital area because the eyes are sensitive to radiation.”
After double checking the TV monitor to make sure Rachel is immobile, he presses the scan button. The scan takes a mere 15 seconds.
“If I see anything abnormal I can call the radiologist and ask him to look at the image from a digital viewing station,” Baumberger said. “This allows us to determine if we need to capture additional images while the patient is still here.”
Baumberger’s next patient, a 19-year-old with a suspected case of appendicitis, is currently in the ER.
Before he can perform a CT with contrast to the man’s pelvis and lungs, he must wait on labs to identify whether the patient’s kidneys are functioning well enough to withstand contrast dye.
Bone density scans
Parsons is a few rooms over calibrating the bone density machine for her afternoon appointment.
As 1 of 2 Children’s DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) technicians, Parsons runs the machine that measures the strength of a person’s bones.
She does scans on both pediatric and adult patients, including Children’s employees who have been prescribed a bone density test by their physician.
“Patients who are on long-term steroid regimens like those with cystic fibrosis, sickle cell and Crohn’s can suffer from bone loss,” Parsons said. “Physicians like to check a patient’s bone density before starting meds and then again after being on them for a while to see how the medication is affecting bone density.”
Parsons also screens other high-risk patients, like those who have undergone a bone marrow transplant or have osteopenia, osteoporosis, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.
After getting a full medical history, she enters a patient’s height, weight, age and ethnicity into the computer.
“Ethnicity is important because certain races have a higher probability of bone loss,” Parsons explained.
The 6-foot-long bone densitometer table can move up and down and side to side in 3 sections. Parsons can set it up to move from her computer workstation.
“We have child life specialists who can come into the room and help distract the kids to keep them still when necessary,” Parsons said.
The number of patients the techs see in a day varies widely. They have a regular schedule of outpatients, as well as daily walk-ins. Through the hospital’s electronic medical record system, they also track cases that come in through the ER.
“During football season we see more broken bones and concussions,” Baumberger said. “In the winter we do more chest X-rays because of respiratory conditions like flu and pneumonia.”
In addition to their regular duties, Parsons and Baumberger rotate daily between X-ray, surgery and the ER. In surgery they may help take C-ARM pictures for the orthopedists or run the X-ray machine for spinal fusion surgeries.
As 1 of only 2 fluoroscopy specialists in the department, Untch stays pretty busy.
They all cite working with kids as the reason for choosing Children’s as their place of employment.
“Kids don’t fake injuries,” Baumberger said. “I get to see a lot of interesting broken bones.”
Untch also likes that Children’s offers continuous learning opportunities.
“I love getting to learn new things from the radiologists, but appreciate that they also value my input,” she said.
For more information on careers at Akron Children’s Hospital, check out our current job opportunities.