Infusion center acquires local artwork

Bartlett Regional Hospital's new Infusion Therapy Center, longtime nurse make cancer patients feel more at home

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010

With the help of multiple community donators - and an outstanding nurse - a new local chemo-infusion therapy unit has a wealth of artwork to warm its walls.

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Kim Andree / Juneau Empire
Kim Andree / Juneau Empire

"The purpose was to provide visual relief for the people who are getting treatment here," said volunteer Ginger Johnson. "So when you come and you have to undergo cancer treatment, you have something pleasurable and peaceful to experience, something sort of anchoring."

Bartlett Regional Hospital's Infusion Therapy Center, located next to its gift shop, opened on May 15, 2009. The unit has four patient chairs and one bed for administration of infusion therapy - blood transfusions, antibiotic therapy, PICC line insertions, chemotherapy and therapeutic phlebotomies.

Infusion and chemotherapist Tamara Simone-Collins said the initial move to acquire artwork for the center came from past patient Carol Krauss.

"Before Carol died, she told me, 'Tamara, I'm going to leave you some money, and I want the money to specifically be used for the new infusion center,'" Simone-Collins said. "So I sat on that for a long time."

Now the center has more than a dozen local art pieces, giving it an eclectic Alaskan theme. Aside from a beaded breast cancer bra and Alaska Native paddle and drum, there are several photographs by Johnson's late husband Rick Urion, an award-winning local photographer who died from colon cancer in June 2008.

"In Tamara's old spot, it was just a mish-mash of stuff and just an assault to the eye, not through any fault of Tamara's but because she has a job to do," Johnson said. "But now, to have this look permanent, it just gives the center a home environment, an intimate environment that makes it restful."

Barbara Greening, a cancer patient who has dealt with various forms of cancer over the last 38 years, knows firsthand the positive difference the center has made for local cancer patients.

"(The artwork) brightens our mood, lightens our concerns, transposes us to another place even for just a few precious hours," she said. "As soon as someone walks into the department, they see quality art on the walls, all of which were donated by grateful patients and loved ones and other community members."

And like many patients, Greening, a Juneau resident since 1983, appreciates the new center because it allows her to stay home, with her husband and friends.

"It allows me to keep up a semblance of normal life rather than living in a hotel room and the trials of being ill while living away from home," she said. "There's no place like home."

Also what makes the center positive for local patients is Simone-Collins' dedication, warmth and patience, Greening said.

"Tamara's devoted care and concern for her patients are the bonuses to being treated in Juneau for cancer," she said. "She instills trust. She softens the blow that patients deal with everyday, because she feels their needs and gives them a place of comfort."

In fact, Simone-Collins was awarded March of Dimes' 2009 statewide Nurse of the Year for Ambulatory Nursing, AWARE's 2006 Women of Distinction and the Southeast Alaska Career and Wellness Foundation's 2003 Caregiver of the Year for Outstanding Medical Professional, to name a few.

"I've always emphasized the care that cancer patients get, because they're closer to my heart than anybody else," Simone-Collins said.

Bartlett's Community Relations Director Jim Strader noted Simone-Collins' modesty.

"She has a whole shelf of awards back there which probably represents five percent of the total awards she has won over her (14-year) career," he said. "She is an incredibly dedicated nurse and very well respected and loved in the hospital and certainly by her patients. She is the reason why people get into nursing."

In all, "Bartlett's new Infusion Therapy Center gives tremendous service, help, care and expertise to those who are going through cancer and other infusion treatments," Greening said.

Infusion Center hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, contact infusion/chemotherapist Simone-Collins at 796-8655.

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