Hospital sonographer retiring after 34 years

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YVONNE O’HARA

yvonne.ohara

@alliedpress.co.nz

Pat Shanks is swapping soundwaves for sea waves.

She has retired after 34 years as a radiographer and then sonographer at Dunstan Hospital, and is looking forward to spending more time with her grandchildren.

She will also do more kayaking at the family crib at Harington Point on Otago Peninsula and she and husband Murray are planning a cycling trip around Vietnam.

Mrs Shanks retired from her role as sonographer in mid-December, aged 65, but is working a few more hours at the hospital until her replacement arrives.

She left Kaikorai Valley High School in Dunedin to study radiography at the Otago School of in 1973, after finding out at a careers day the career existed.

“The job appealed as I enjoyed the idea of a hospital environment,” Mrs Shanks said.

“I remember one of our jobs was to X-ray the boss’s electric blanket to check the wiring.

“We also did bones from deceased people to find the cause of deaths for postmortems.”

She qualified in 1975 and worked at Dunedin Hospital until she left to have daughter Lana in 1978.

She married Murray (Muzz) in 1976 and after they had sons Keith and Brendon, they moved to Alexandra where Mr Shanks worked for the commercial printing arm of the Central Otago News.

She was asked to provide staffing relief at Dunstan Hospital, and later moved to a permanent part-time role.

Dunstan Hospital also provided an X-ray service for Cromwell and Ranfurly hospitals and at that time the Clyde dam was under construction and the road was often closed.

“Sometimes they opened the road just to let us through.”

Mrs Shanks was encouraged to train as a sonographer, which meant driving to Dunedin for two days a week for six years.

She said sonography used soundwaves and complemented radiography and Dunstan’s CT scanner.

“You can see babies leaping around and waving at you.”

She was required to be on call every second night and every second weekend and could not be more than 20 minutes away from the hospital, as that was how long it took for the machine to warm up.

Mrs Shanks said the hospital was “an inspiring and supportive environment to work in”.

“I have had some real highs, including seeing people who were desperate to have a baby finding out they could have one.

“Some of the real lows were seeing people who could not.”

In her farewell speech to her colleagues, she said the hospital would always be a “massive part of my life”.

She said her family had put up with her absences from many events because of work or on-call demands.

“I want to say a special thank-you to Muzz, who always encouraged me through the years of travelling to Dunedin for training,” she said.