Grant Brings Technology to Cancer Patients in Springfield

November 14, 2014

Anjie Gifford uses one of 10 Nook HDs purchased by Mercy

Sitting through cancer treatment can be challenging and lonely, especially when it spans several hours. At Mercy Clinic Cancer and Hematology in Springfield, however, patients are now becoming empowered by technology.

“Thanks to the tried-and-true generosity of the Van K. Smith family (photo below), Mercy has received $50,000 to establish the Van K. Smith Technology Fund,” said Jean Gruetzemacher, vice president of Mercy Health Foundation in Springfield. The first purchase through the fund included ten Nook HDs from Barnes & Noble, available for cancer patients like Anjie Gifford.

“It’s a fabulous thing,” said Gifford, who just turned 50. “When you’re sick, you don’t get out in public much, so this helps you reach out without having to walk around. You can use the Internet, get on social media, watch a movie or read a book – and it’s free.”

Gifford, a surgical technologist, was assisting with a mastectomy on a patient last spring when she realized she hadn’t had a mammogram in four years. “My co-worker stayed on my case, and I’m glad she did, because I went from an ultrasound to a biopsy, then a port placement surgery and chemo – all in a matter of four weeks. It was like a whirlwind.”

Gifford’s doctor supplied her with materials as she navigated her way from diagnosis to treatment, but now with a touch of a button, that information is at her fingertips. “At first I was in a wheelchair and I didn’t talk. I was miserable. But I’ve made so many friends as we compare books and music together during treatment.”

“They’re going through enough in their life with a cancer diagnosis,” said Shelley White, medical librarian at Mercy Hospital Springfield. “Their arms can get sore from being infused all day, so this is a low-intensity, stress-free option to get information or entertainment while they’re going through treatment.”

Each Nook has more than 50 books and applications; Mercy has a managed care contract through Barnes & Noble to keep them up to date. “Whenever we purchase a title, they can push the app to all the Nooks all at once for us,” explained White. “Once they’re connected to WIFI, it’ll automatically upload to each one.”

“These let you still be your own person and not just a patient,” added Gifford, who also makes regular visits to the adjacent Van K. Smith Community Health Library, another major project funded by the Smith family. “My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer a week before I was diagnosed, so together we had a lot of learning to do. Shelley is very knowledgeable and got us up to speed very quickly.”

The Van K. Smith Community Health Library is located in the C.H. “Chub” O’Reilly Cancer Center. Click here to learn more about the services offered, which range from books and videos to interactive, educational tools like posters and anatomical models. The library, founded in 1991, is open to anyone and materials can be looked at within the library or checked out to be reviewed at home. All the services of the library are free.

“It’s clear to see that Mr. Van K. Smith and wife Ruth’s eagerness to help others through his philanthropic gifts has been passed onto his children, who made this latest grant possible,” added Gruetzemacher. “We look forward to expanding this technology into other areas at the hospital.”