A lot of things have changed since Larry Lempka came to work in the Radiology Department in 1977. He was one of only three techs, and there was only one radiologist. The department was across the hall from the
Emergency Department in the old hospital, where the
Campbell County Senior Center is now located, and the only equipment was one x-ray machine.
He remembers those rough and tumble days during Gillette's boom years, like seeing a trauma patient brought in from a car accident interrupting his job interview. Like many other longtime employees, Larry was going to work in Gillette for six months, and then go back to school. He stayed 38 years.
The technology is what has changed the most in those many years. When Larry started working as a radiology tech, patients received much greater dose of radiation then they do now, and the x-ray itself was an image captured on a piece of film that we then developed in a darkroom. It wasn't until the new hospital opened in 1980 that they had an ultrasound machine and three x-ray rooms. He joked that he and the other staff were going to get lost in the new building because it was so big. Automated Daylight processing came about two years later, and the first CT scanner, a single slice machine, came in 1994. The table would move with each slice to get a new image. Compare this to the current CT scanner, which is 64 slices and can complete a chest CT in 10 seconds.
Larry will miss his coworkers and the joy that comes from helping people. He jokes that working primarily with women for most of his career was no big deal because he has seven sisters. He is very proud that he was able to obtain certifications for NIOSH testing for industry, doing baseline lung screenings for mining and other industries. In addition to managing the department for many years, Larry performed x-rays, nuclear medicine exams, CT and MR scans.
Now Larry only has dreams about having to get up in the middle of the night and go to the hospital for a trauma. He wakes up and knows he can just go back to sleep.
Larry is looking forward to spending more time with his children and grandchildren. Wife Susan is planning on working a few more years, so Larry spends time working out to stay in shape and accomplishing overdue projects at home.