‘Rainbow of Extraordinary Health Care Heroes’ in Oncology Nurses

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healer® Vol. 15, Volume 15,

A patient describes the connection that she has with a senior research nurse at the institution where she has been enrolled in a clinical trial since 2019.

For the CURE® 2021 Extraordinary Healer Award®, I respectfully nominate Hayden Chae, B.S.N., RN, OCN, ME, Johns Hopkins Sibley Memorial Hospital senior oncology research nurse extraordinaire at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley Memoria Hospital in Washington, D.C., or as I've lately dubbed him, my “rainbow connection.”

Since June 2019, I have been enrolled in a clinical trial at Sibley Memorial Hospital that combines oral Ibrance (Palbociclib) with Faslodex (fulvestrant) injections. So far, I'm responding well to the treatment regime. Compared to other protocols, this one isn't so bad with the exception of the intramuscular injections. These monthly bolts to the buttocks must be given simultaneously by two skilled and sympathetic nurses. Adding to the fanny follies: the intramuscular injections are administered slowly, usually requiring up to two minutes before the derriere deed is done. That would be the longest 120 seconds in the history of time calculation. Yes, the shots can be a bit painful. How best to cope as the caboose is juiced? Why, go to a happy place, of course.

Recently, my happy place consists of singing silently to myself, Kermit the Frog's lyrical Muppet missive, "The Rainbow Connection." I have no idea why this particular song first wormed its way into my brain while dueling syringes were being emptied into my butt. I'm just glad and grateful it did.

Certainly, the melody is a welcome distraction as the Faslodex flows. More importantly, the refrain has become a metaphor for this phase of my cancer journey and the rainbow of extraordinary health care heroes who are making it possible. Hayden is one of those heroes.

Shepherding participants through a drug trial has to be demanding during the best of times. Factor in the unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic and the reality that I live 75 miles from Sibley Memorial Hospital, keeping my participation in the life-saving program on track must present its own unique set of challenges for Hayden, who helps to ensure the required labs, scans and doctor’s appointments can be performed at Sibley Memorial Hospital in a single day. He also cheerfully calls me after a visit just to make sure I'm doing alright, coordinates with outside providers for lab work or scans if killer viruses or wicked weather limits travel to Sibley Memorial Hospital. He also untangles administrative kinks I can't always address because I live so far away and patiently deals with a myriad of details like securing a gurney for the double-barrel bum assault (simply leaning over and grabbing a chair doesn't cut it, trust me.).

Each of these tasks Hayden deftly and eagerly accomplishes with his inherent good nature, unflagging determination and deep concern for the welfare of his patients, never permitting the clinical to outpace the caring.

I'm blessed to have an incredible treatment team, embodying a wide spectrum of compassionate and skilled medical professionals. Just like a rainbow spectrum, their boldness and brightness offer the promise of a new day filled with endless possibilities.

Editor’s Note: This is an essay submitted by Linda McCarthy for the 2021 Extraordinary Healer Award. Click here to read more about CURE®’s Extraordinary Healer® Award for Oncology Nursing event on April 30, 2021.

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