The Jones-Dunklin Cancer Center sees dozens of patients every day, and many of them can be found in the Infusion Center receiving chemotherapy. “Infusion varies, but we easily see 30 patients a day,” says Cindy Morgan, RN. Cindy has been with Jefferson Regional for 32 years, working in several different departments including Same Day Surgery, which is where patients received chemo before the cancer center was built.
Chemo is a drug treatment which uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cancer cells in the body. After diagnosis, one of Jefferson Regional’s oncologists will order the specific type of chemo, how often and how many cycles are planned. The prescription will be prepared in the on-site pharmacy, and the drug is administered intravenously. “Some infusions only last an hour, others can last as long as seven hours and sometimes, the regimen will change during the course of treatment,” Cindy said. “So we are the patient’s family away from home. It’s hard, and some days certain patients just need a little more of our attention.”
Unfortunately, Cindy Morgan knows these things from experience. “I had been working in infusion just a few months when my husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). He was diagnosed in April of 2016 and passed away that following December. So from that respect, I can see what patients and family members are going through. I feel for them all.”
Working alongside Cindy in infusion is Evelyn Ward, PCT II. Evelyn retired from Jefferson Regional after 34 years, but after six years she was ready to get back in the saddle, and has been with the cancer center for three years. Evelyn has also lost family members to cancer, and she knows what a roller coaster the disease can create. “The first question you want to ask is ‘why me?’ but as you go through the process you tend to settle down a little and start to deal with it. I try to interact with our patients and bring them a little joy.”
Because infusion patients are sometimes at the center all day long, the facility has been designed to make the experience as painless as possible. Each patient has a private area with a television, a comfortable heated recliner, and a sound dome that can direct the TV or music just to them, without disturbing other patients. “We also have many support services available, such as nutritionists, social workers and financial navigators. If you can help them with some of these other issues, it has a significant impact.”
“We spend so much time with these individuals, we try to meet them where they stand in their own experience,” Evelyn said. “Some of them want to talk about cancer, and sometimes a listening ear is enough. To see them uplifted and smiling is wonderful. A lot of them tell me they feel better just seeing us, and if they don’t, they’re looking to see where we are.”
Although chemo is the main activity, there are other types of infusions being conducted every day, for conditions such as chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, Crohn’s disease and colitis. All patients receive the same attention and care, from professionals who are working hard not just to cure them, but to ease their physical and emotional pain. “We are really blessed to have this facility here in Pine Bluff,” Cindy said. “When my husband was diagnosed, we weren’t treating many cases of AML and we had to drive to Little Rock from Star City as often as three days a week. If you live in Southeast Arkansas, it makes everything so much easier.”
“Our staff is wonderful,” Evelyn agrees. “We all have the same goal – to make sure our patients get the best care possible.”