Red Cross Donates Items for Cancer Patient Comfort Kits at NMCP

Story Number: NNS130719-16Release Date: 7/19/2013 11:04:00 PM
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By Rebecca A. Perron

Portsmouth, Va. (NNS) -- The American Red Cross station at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth used funds from an annual federal grant to purchase supplies for comfort kits given to newly diagnosed cancer patients, delivering the supplies to the Ambulatory Infusion Center July 16.

The donation amounts to $1,000 in lip balm, toothbrushes, water bottles, lotion and other items for about 50 kits.

They also spent $300 on items for Biopsychosocial Services to be used by patients for leisure, therapy or life skill education; $250 in books for the Inpatient Mental Health Unit; and $300 for blankets, water bottles and hard candy for Hematology/Oncology Clinic patients.

"The American Red Cross falls into a unique position because we are given the privilege to serve a community of people who have given so much of themselves and sacrificed a great deal for our country," said Prerana Korpe, station manager. "The Red Cross was able to reach out to a few departments within NMCP to offer support. Thanks to the swift response of these departments we were able to procure the requested materials."

These departments often rely on such donations to provide patient comfort items, and for the newly diagnosed cancer patients, frequently it's the AIC staff who pool their money to pay for the kits - that's about $15 per kit for the 50 new patients diagnosed each year at NMCP.

"Some patients sit for up to seven to nine hours for treatment, getting three to four drugs infused at one time, so these kits give them something to do when they are sitting there," said Lt. Cmdr. Aleah McHenry, AIC division officer. "The kits also help them decrease the chances for infection, which is important for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy."

The kits typically include items to keep the patient's skin protected and from becoming cracked - lotion, lip balm, sunscreen and hand sanitizer; a water bottle and tea bags for hydration and relaxation; pens and a word search book for entertainment; a thermometer to monitor for infection; a planner to track appointments; and hard lemon-flavored candy to counter a metallic taste that can result from the treatments.

"We also include a toothbrush and toothpaste because we want our patients to brush their teeth four to five times per day," McHenry said.

The Red Cross also purchased about 50 copies of the book, "The Chemotherapy Survival Guide," which had not previously been included in the kits.

"It was a great pleasure for the Red Cross to be able to assist by providing the comfort kits and chemotherapy survival guide books to the AIC for their patients," Korpe said. "The AIC staff has demonstrated a special component of patient care - letting patients know that they are not alone. The gesture behind the welcome kit symbolizes an element of togetherness and community resiliency that is prevalent at NMCP. We hope the comfort items will bring some level of joy to the patients."

Many of the AIC's patients will undergo their first round of chemotherapy for three to six months, receiving treatment once a week or once every three weeks depending on their diagnosis and treatment course. Although NMCP can treat any type of cancer, the cancers most commonly treated are colorectal, breast, lung, lymphoma and leukemia.

The AIC typically treats 150 cancer patients per month, seeing some patients for more than the initial treatment.

"Those who have a curable cancer we see for a more limited time, but those who have a cancer that cannot be cured, we will provide them treatment for several years to help them manage the disease," McHenry said. "We will watch them to see which treatment is providing them the best quality of life, monitor their labs, and collaborate with folks from disciplines all over the medical center."

That includes surgical services, occupational health, pediatric oncology, physical therapy and nursing services. Accredited by the Commission on Cancer and deemed a Cancer Center of Excellence, NMCP provides state-of-the-art care for beneficiaries of all services from the pretreatment evaluation throughout the delivery of cancer treatment.

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