Published on May 07, 2019

Something was askew at this patient’s house

Yolene - phlebotomist with Cape Cod Healthcare Laboratory Services

Yolene Paul knew right away that something was wrong.

As a phlebotomist with Cape Cod Healthcare Laboratory Services, she spends many of her work days drawing blood for patients who can’t get to the lab. Her patients look forward to her visits since, besides healthcare, she delivers a sunny smile, an easy laugh and a touch of kindness.

But something was askew at this patient’s house. The patient usually left the light on for Yolene and waited at the door. This day, there was no light, and no one was waiting.

“When I walked up to the door and rang the bell, and I didn’t see anyone, I knocked and I called her,” Yolene said. And then, “I heard someone scream, like crying.”

She looked through the glass on the side of the door and saw a shadow, near the kitchen table. She realized it was her patient and called 911.

Yolene waited for police, and she and the officer went to the back slider to see if they could get in, but it was locked. She kept talking to her patient through the door while the officer broke into the house. Once inside, they discovered the patient had been on the floor for 48 hours. Yolene stayed with her until the ambulance arrived.

“She was making coffee, and then she felt dizzy and passed out,” she said. “She was smart. She dragged herself all the way from the kitchen and then she lay in the spot where people could see her.”

Even more horrifying, the kettle was blackened from sitting on the burning stove for 48 hours.

“I was scared; I was scared for her,” she said. “Most of all, I was thinking, this stove was on.”

Providers on the Road

Yolene is one of about a half dozen Cape Cod Healthcare phlebotomists on the road each day, seeing patients at home and in assisted-living and nursing facilities from the bridges to Provincetown, said Pat Cabana, director of laboratory outreach for Cape Cod Healthcare. They often see people repeatedly, particularly patients on medications like blood thinners that require regular testing.

“Especially when they go into somebody’s home, they develop a relationship with these people,” Cabana said. And Yolene seems to have the right touch for home visits, she said. “She’s a caring person, very dedicated to doing home draws. I think she enjoys the elderly patients.”

Yolene, who is married with three grown daughters, takes pride in her job. She grew up in Haiti, moved to New York when she was 18, and came to Cape Cod in 1999. She’s been a phlebotomist for 10 years and said she was part of the first graduating class in phlebotomy at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich. She’s worked at the lab since 2008.

When she’s not at work, she’s likely to be doing something with the Cape Cod Seventh Day Adventist Church in Hyannis where she’s a deacon, vice president, and works with young people, among other responsibilities.

The last she heard, her patient who fell is doing better. The rescue is a reminder that the connections Yolene and other phlebotomists make during their visits go way beyond blood draws. Many members of Cape Cod’s elderly population live alone without friends or family nearby. Sometimes, Yolene said, she might be the only person a patient has talked to for several days.

“You have to take a little time, to listen to the story and talk to them a bit, and make them feel better,” she said. “You know, not just take blood but sometimes, be like a friend.”