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By Trish McMahon
Five years ago I walked into the Infusion Suite at the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute. I was not a patient; I was a volunteer. Although I had been introduced to the suite and had prior training, I found myself wondering how I will handle this setting where patients are receiving chemotherapy and fighting for their lives.
I began to visit with patients, bring snacks and drinks or a blanket and pillow. I quickly saw that a small token of kindness brightens a patient’s day. I knew this was the right place for me. Joy emerges as I spend time with these patients. Some of our richest blessings are right around the corner.
I came to understand the dedication of the nurses in the chemo suite. Healing hands are given as gifts from nurses. At the Mitchell Cancer Institute, nurses take on extraordinary tasks and challenges each day.
Nurses begin their shift at a fast pace, which may continue throughout the day. First, they often call overwhelmed and frightened patients into the chemo suite. Each patient is stepping into a new and difficult phase of life. A nurse’s smile or a soft touch of the hand begins to calm the patient’s nerves. Then the patient realizes the nurse will be there every step of the way, and trust develops between patient and nurse.
Communicating with patients is ongoing throughout the day for nurses. The patient must process a great deal of information regarding their cancer and treatment. Prior to treatment, each patient meets with a nurse. Each is given a very extensive notebook that will educate the patient and help keep their daily lives in balance. This one-on-one opportunity with a nurse gives each patient time to go over various concerns and questions.
When a patient asks a question, a nurse may not always have an easy answer. Compassion and gentleness guide their answers. And, oh yes, nurses find time for joy and laughter, keeping up the spirits of all those around them.
The patient is comfortably seated as the nurse begins the treatment process. The nurse remains ever vigilant to each patient and before long any, tears from a patient will soon become a smile.
As a volunteer, I see the wonderful kindnesses that the nurses have for their patients. Each also shows a courageous spirit that bonds them with the patients and with each other. Yes, nurses are very special people who come and go in all our lives, and the Mitchell Cancer Institute nurses are all particularly exceptional.
(Trish McMahon serves as one of several volunteers, called “Chemo Sabés” in the MCI Infusion Suite in Mobile, Ala.)
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