Six weeks had passed since 19-year-old Marshal King’s surgery to remove a benign tumor in his knee.
He felt great. His life had begun to approach normal again. He had become a student at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The last thing he had time to do was drive four hours, one way, for a second post-op appointment with his surgeon.
That’s where virtual health came in.
“It was 10 minutes compared to a four-hour drive,” King said. “It saved so much time and resources.”
Dr. Steensma often uses the Spectrum Health app for post-op care.
“It can be a hardship for people to drive hundreds of miles to come to a clinic visit,” Dr. Steensma said. “(The Spectrum Health app) was an indispensable tool for Marshal because he was busy being a student.”
People often have the perception that virtual health care is not as high quality as the care you’d receive had you been in the same room with the doctor, Dr. Steensma said.
But that would not be an accurate perception.
For some visits, such as King’s two-week post-op appointment where he needed sutures removed, a virtual visit isn’t an option.
But sometimes, it is a great option.
The Spectrum Health app is a smooth process that allowed providers to deliver the same care as face-to-face, Dr. Steensma said.
“It’s a valuable tool for both the patient and physician,” he said.
Their conversation that day, with King on his smartphone and Dr. Steensma at a video conference booth in his office, had been the culmination of a long journey for King.
In spring of his senior year at East Jordan High School in Northern Michigan, he had a lot of knee pain while playing football.
“I never even really noticed it until I was playing football and got hit right where the tumor was,” King said. “That night after I got hit, I could barely sleep because it kept cramping up.”
He visited a health clinic and received instructions to treat the swelling and fluid buildup with ice.
“I kept on playing football,” he said. “I tried, but my leg would hurt all the time. So I barely got to play at all. It wasn’t fun.”
After football season he saw another doctor, who ordered an X-ray. It revealed a tumor—a non-cancerous bone tumor called an osteochondroma. He then received a referral to Dr. Steensma.
Dr. Steensma said osteochondromas typically grow away from the bone, entrapping muscles and tendons. That’s what had caused King’s intense pain.
Most osteochondromas don’t require surgery unless they’re growing rapidly or causing symptoms, Dr. Steensma said.
In King’s case, his pain meant it had come time to remove it.
But first, he had plans to travel to New Zealand for a royal stag hunt—a gift from his extended family for his high school graduation. An avid outdoor enthusiast, he wasn’t about to miss the opportunity. He used ibuprofen to dull the pain during the trip.
In mid-July, he had surgery to remove the tumor on his right femur.
He soon resumed his active lifestyle and headed off to college, where he’s now studying criminal justice and natural resources technology in hopes of becoming an officer for a natural resources agency.
King said he loves nature and wants to do all he can to preserve the beauty of Michigan.
“I want to provide that for future generations,” he said.