Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Infusion services help local patients stay close to home


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Marvin Miles, a chemotherapy-certified nurse at St. Luke’s Wood River, talks Monday about the services the hospital provides patients in the infusion room. Photo by Willy Cook

A diagnosis of cancer is difficult enough, but in the months that follow, patients can also find themselves struggling with the logistics of treatment while maintaining regular work and family schedules. Chemotherapy here always used to mean trips to Twin Falls or Boise, sometimes on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis.

When Sun Valley resident Ruthann Saphier received a diagnosis of uterine cancer, she found some relief in the fact that her chemotherapy could be administered close to home.

Three years ago this month, St. Luke's Wood River opened an outpatient infusion room housed in the hospital's emergency department, allowing cancer patients as well as those dealing with other diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease to receive chemotherapy or other infusions locally. Infusions are the therapeutic introduction of fluid other than blood into a vein.

"All last winter we avoided some trips," Saphier said.

That was especially helpful when storms or icy roads made travel difficult or dangerous.

"I can walk to my infusion room," she said. "How many people can say that? Thank God we have it."

Of more than two dozen rural hospitals in Idaho, only a few offer such services. None matches what St. Luke's Wood River provides, according to Marvin "Mouse" Miles, a chemotherapy-certified nurse.

"We're very unique," she said. "No one has the level of care and sophistication we offer."

The service, a satellite to St. Luke's Mountain States Tumor Institute, necessitated a new, dedicated position, someone who had administrative/scheduling abilities and who could administer infusion.

Already working at the hospital as a nurse manager, Miles jumped at the chance.

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"I remember thinking what a great job that would be," she said.

A small room was converted for the purpose, with hopes for future expansion.

"We're looking to be very full-service in terms of our oncology patients," Miles said.

Those offerings might include nutrition, massage and other aspects of integrative care.

Miles said the service benefits residents and visitors who otherwise might have to postpone vacations.

"I don't want people to think they can't come to Sun Valley because they're on chemotherapy," she said. "We're able to facilitate out-of-town people without too many hiccups."

Miles, who came to Sun Valley in the 1960s to ski, has played an important role in patients' recovery.

"It's just so wonderful to have her here," said Saphier, who pays her a visit a couple of times each month. "She's a gift. We need to applaud nurses. I call them angels."

Saphier is beating the odds.

"I'm succeeding where most people don't," she said. "I've gone well beyond."

For her part, Miles looks forward to coming to work because of the interaction she has with people.

"It's very one-on-one," she said. "It's the best nurse job in the hospital."

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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