Friday, February 11, 2011

What about the nurses?

We are so grateful for our oncologist, Hank Kaplan. He's a perfect match and foil for Megan. Of course he's fallen for her, as most do. Most visits are 2 hug/1-2 high five visits. They have a nice repartee' even when talking about difficult issues and choices. But we are also very grateful for our oncology research nurse, Barry, and all the other nurses at Swedish, including the one who had to give Meagan the 30 second shot in the butt.

Nurses obviously don't drive the process. But they are an integral part of it, and can make the experience wonderful or difficult. The other day we had to go in to the lab at Swedish so Meagan could have blood drawn for a test for to determine if she had the right kind of protein that would enable participation in a clinical trial through the UW/Cancer Care Alliance down the road, if treatments underway or known don't work. The paperwork at the front desk asked that Barry be paged, because he had to have the blood couriered over to the UW, and that we needed to talk to him before the blood draw.

He came from his office in a few minutes, plopped down in front of us, and spent literally the next hour talking with us. He was able to answer a variety of questions and help us understand better some possible future scenarios, as well as talk about relevant clinical trials that Swedish was pursuing. Plus, we just talked about stuff, his vacation, our time at Decatur, and how we were doing generally. Finally Meagan went off the get her blood draw and he and I talked about books until she returned. Now, this isn't an everyday occurrence, but it reflects the approach of the nurses we've come in contact with throughout Swedish. They care, and take the time to help you and connect with you. Our surgery nurse, Kimberly, always asked about the kids, would call and follow-up after surgery and inquire about more than just the surgery aspect. I've seen the nurses come out to get all the cancer patients for their doctor meetings and it's amazing the quality of the interaction they have - lots of warm greetings, hugs or touching. Universally the staff has been friendly and caring.

It matters and I'm glad they do it. I'm not sure if it's management driven or part of the culture, or we are just darn lucky. It doesn't matter though. It works. It helps us cope, helps us feel comforted and comfortable, and builds the trust and confidence necessary when dealing with an unpredictable disease.

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