By Sarah Bello, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
The team at the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative saw their patients growing lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working together, they’ve found new ways to support them and bring them joy. They’re creating an online patient community for patients to connect virtually and holding some classes online, too.
Kelley Crusius, nurse practitioner in medical oncology, came up with the idea to make personalized care packages for patients. She and Mari Montesano, social worker in the Cancer Center, developed the boxes and received donations to fill them from local businesses, caregivers and other patients. About 200 boxes, printed with the signatures of Cancer Center caregivers, were also donated by a friend of Chris Laman, director of the facility.
“We were talking about how patients are feeling really isolated since they aren’t able to bring visitors with them,” Crusius explains. “It’s been a tough time for everyone. It’s important to us that they know we’re here to support them, and it’s a neat way to show we’re thinking of them.”
Around 10 patients will receive a care package every month, Montesano says. Patients are drawn at random or specially selected based on their circumstances. Caregivers, including some of the providers, deliver the boxes in person to patients’ homes.
The boxes are full of self-care items, handmade face coverings, snacks (personalized according to patient preference) and even fresh eggs from nurse Brent Rueff’s chickens. Since the Cancer Center caregivers get to know their patients well during treatment, they also include items specific to the patient receiving the box.
One patient loves Doritos and sandwiches from the hospital cafeteria, so his box came with those items. Another is very spiritual, so his box included a Bible and a cross.
Montesano says the plan is to continue delivering the care packages even past the pandemic to keep showing support for patients who already face some isolation during normal cancer treatment.
“Even though you may be by yourself, you’re never alone,” Crusius says. “That’s what we want to show our patients.”
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