No-Visitor Policies Mean Cancer Patients Face Treatment Alone, Or Do They?
NORTH OGDEN, Utah – One of the most heart-wrenching aspects of COVID-19 is the loneliness patients are feeling. Because of no-visitor policies, cancer patients are facing difficult diagnoses and treatments alone. Or are they?
Felicia and Gonzalo Munoz never dreamed one of them would fight cancer.
“We’ve been together since we were 12 years old,” said Felicia, who lives with her family in North Ogden.
Gonzalo has Hodgkins Lymphoma and had to get infusions alone.
“We were both just sad, heartbroken,” Felicia said.
“Just that feeling of loneliness,” Gonzalo added.
“It’s not easy,” said A’lisha Finch, Multi-disciplinary Support and Patient Experience Manager at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and University of Utah Health. “In fact, I get teary-eyed when I work at the patient entrances and have to see them leave their loved ones.”
So Felicia found other ways to support Gonzalo. She made a “care card,” and wrote specific ways his nurse could make him more comfortable.
“He will say ‘no’ to a blanket but bring him one with an extra pillow,” she wrote.
Gonzalo said, “I always say, ‘no, I’m OK.’ She’s the one that says, ‘No, you know what? Bring it to him, ‘cause he’s going to need it.’”
“He’s a really gentle soul, I like to call him,” Felicia said. “He doesn’t like to make people do more things than they need to. So he’ll tell a nurse, ‘No,’ but I can tell when he needs one. I asked them to bring him an extra pillow because usually they bring me a pillow, but I give that pillow to him so that he’s more comfortable.”
She also wrote, “He will say ‘no’ to food but he will drink water. Can you bring him one even if he says ‘no’? He might get sad and lonely. Ask him about his daughter, Emma. That will make him happy.”
“Oh man, I cried,” Gonzalo said. “I read it the first time, and I had to stop halfway just kind of to take it in.”
Felicia also set up camp outside, so he could see her through the window of his hospital room.
Lori Gay is Gonzalo’s nurse. Her brother, Tony, passed away from cancer in July 2019.
“I try to take care of all patients as if they were my family member, so I try to remember that every day,” said Gay, an R.N. in the Infusion Room at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Felica said, “He means the world to me.”
It’s this kind of love that’s making patients not feel alone at all. In Felicia and Gonzalo’s case, “If I wasn’t there physically, then I can be there at least some way, somehow, still giving him comfort,” she said.
Gonzalo’s cancer is now in remission. His care card worked so well the hospital now provides them for all patients.
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