Center eases cancer treatment

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Serenity, peace and comfort are words that come to mind in the Yampa Valley Medical Center's new Infusion/Chemotherapy Center.

Warm colors and soft lighting swath roomy spaces where patients listen to water trickle from a fountain or look out large picture windows onto a green meadow.

It's a far cry from the old center -- a cramped, windowless room next to the hospital's bustling emergency ward.

"It's a great improvement over what we had been able to offer," said Christine McKelvie, director of public relations for YVMC.

The hospital is inviting the community to learn about services offered at the new center during a free open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday. The center is in Suite 104 of the Medical Center Office Building on the YVMC campus.

The center, which opened May 24, started with just a few new chairs and a desire to "spruce up" the old center, explained Jane Davis, a member of the Yampa Valley Medical Center Auxiliary.

In 2003, auxiliary member Sue Frasier, who was being treated for breast cancer, suggested the group use extra funds to replace the uncomfortable treatment chairs in the old center.

The auxiliary purchased the chairs and ultimately decided to pledge funds from two Rubber Ducky races toward a new center.

"They just overwhelmingly approved doing whatever it took to get a new center started," Davis said.

The Heathcare Foundation of the Yampa Valley assisted in soliciting private donations and a large grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Rural Health Improvement Program to help pay for the $217,000 project, McKelvie said.

At almost four times the size of the old center, the new Infusion/Chemotherapy center can better accommodate the 90 to 120 patient visits there each month, said Tina Swinsick, a registered nurse with the center.

In addition to Routt County residents, the center regularly treats patients from Walden, Craig, Baggs, Wyo., and other surrounding areas. About 30 percent to 40 percent of those visits are from chemotherapy patients. The center does not provide radiation treatments.

Most patients visit the center to have medications intravenously "infused" into veins as treatment for chronic Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. Chronically anemic patients also receive regular blood transfusions at the center, Swinsick said.

One of the main goals of the new center was to provide a more comfortable space for patients who spend as many as eight hours at a time in treatment.

There is a private treatment room as well as a large, open room for patients who prefer to be in a group environment during treatments.

The soothing, noninstitutional atmosphere can make the experience much more bearable for patients.

"They do come in laughing sometimes," Swinsick said. "It's not always a sad thing that they are here."

One of the goals of the open house is to educate the community about the services at the center, which many residents still don't know even exists at the hospital, McKelvie said.

"Cancer can separate people," she said. "I think it's much healthier when people are aware what is available should cancer affect their family. ... We would like to take some of the fear and concern away about cancer."

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