GALLIPOLIS FERRY, WV (WOWK) — A mobile program to provide all 55 counties in the Mountain State with crucial health care service was in Mason County Tuesday.
Bonnie’s Bus—a 45-foot state-of-the-art mobile mammography vehicle from the WVU Cancer Institute—was parked at Valley Health in Gallipolis Ferry to give women in the area access to breast cancer screening services.
‘Bonnie’s Bus’ is a program which started in 2009. It is named after Bonnie Wells Wilson—who lived in a rural area without access to these screening services, and who unfortunately passed away due to breast cancer.
“Her family, you know, took it very very hard and they wanted to start a program that would make sure all women of West Virginia got a mammogram done,” says Rick Maczko, ‘Bonnie’s Bus’ driver with WVU Medicine.
It’s a mission this bus has certainly lived up to—completing more than 20,000 mammograms between 2009 and 2020. (23,037 according to the WVU Cancer Institute, to be exact.)
“One out of eight women are going to be diagnosed with breast cancer sometime in their life. It’s pretty correctable if you catch it early,” Maczko says.
A major benefit of having a mobile mammography unit is it creates better access to care.
“A lot of our patients have transportation issues so… it helps the patients to be able to have access to mammograms,” says Amy Arrington, clinical coordinator for Valley Health in Gallipolis Ferry.
The service is crucial because it can help women screen for the disease in its early phases.
“To catch it early means it gets treated early which means you have a better chance of being cancer free in the future,” Arrington says.
Since ‘Bonnie’s Bus’ has been up and running, it has helped detect more than 120 cases of breast cancer in the Mountain State.
“We have the 3D imaging machine…that’ll basically detect up to the size of a grain of salt and that’s very very small so if we can catch it early, you have a better chance of survival,” Maczko says.
This is the bus’s first time in Gallipolis Ferry, but those who got to try it Tuesday are already pleased with the services.
“It is more, you know, convenient. There’s nobody here, you have your own appointment and I don’t know, I think it’s a little bit more safer,” says Kim Finely, a patient of ‘Bonnie’s Bus.’
“It basically gives them no excuse not to get a mammogram, because we’re coming to your neighborhood, it’s almost like the circus or a fair, I mean here we come, come on out and see us,” Maczko says.
The bus operates by appointment only. The WVU Cancer Institute has a bus calendar on their website to track where the bus will head next, here.
To learn more about ‘Bonnie’s Bus,’ visit their website here.