Patient Stories

A teaching moment

Kate Kristiansen is a busy painter, sculptor, art teacher and community volunteer in the Beaverton area. But she’d never tried her hand at video production — until the pain began.

At 44, she started to experience unusually heavy menstrual periods and severe abdominal pain. Because of other complications and a family history of cancer, her doctor recommended that she have a hysterectomy. That’s when the patient decided to become a producer.

“A hysterectomy is painful, and the recovery is difficult,” says Kristiansen. “You don’t just go into it lightly.” Making a video, she felt, would help her, as well as other women, understand what they’d be going through. “People don’t talk about hysterectomies, but so many women have to have them,” she says. “By shedding some light, we can realize that we’re not alone.”

I admired that she was willing to share that type of information with the general public...she feels very strongly that this information should be shared more broadly than it is.

Kristiansen took the idea of recording her pre-op examination to Karina Hoan, M.D., her gynecologist and gynecologic surgeon at The Portland Clinic, and received instant support.

“I thought it was an excellent idea,” says Dr. Hoan. “This is something that the world — including women and men — needs to be informed about.”

Dr. Hoan quickly grasped the value of the video. “My mom is a home-birth midwife,” she explains. “Growing up, I was always around birth, and watched, witnessed and really experienced what it was like to take care of women.” Now her patient would be helping other women by letting them watch, witness and learn from her own experience.

In the video, Kristiansen serves as narrator and interviewer while also playing the part of real-life patient. “Okay,” she begins, introducing Dr. Hoan, “the doctor let me con her into having a live video of this, and so what I wanted to show you…,” it turns out, is nearly everything.

The pre-surgery examination is shown in detail, accompanied by illustrations, humorous comments from the patient, and more serious explanations from a good-natured Dr. Hoan.

“I admired that she was willing to share that type of information with the general public,” the physician says. “She feels very strongly that this information should be shared more broadly than it is.”

Mission accomplished. Posted on “Facebook Live,” Kristiansen’s video quickly picked up thousands of views.

“I received dozens of messages from people sharing their own experiences and questions,” Kristiansen reports. “My mother was like, ‘Well, that was a lot of information!’ But that’s the thing. You need to know what the possible outcomes are, what the issues are. This isn’t day surgery where you just roll in and roll out and put your makeup on.”

As a physician, says Dr. Hoan, “My goal, always, is to educate and empower my patients.” With Kristiansen, her patient was able to become the educator, sharing vital information in a new, creative and effective way. “The most important takeaway for me,” Dr. Hoan later told Kristiansen, “was the knowledge, the power and security that you gained from using your own experience to enlighten and give courage to other women.”

A recent post-op appointment showed that all was well, and Kristiansen has returned to her family and her busy, artistic life. The pain is gone, replaced by good feelings about what she and her doctor achieved together. “We helped light a couple more candles,” she says, “to dispel the darkness and scariness of a very common procedure.”