After he completed an aggressive schedule of radiation and chemotherapy treatments to battle lung cancer, Jim Coaley’s family asked him if he got to ring the bell.
“I said, ‘I don’t think they have one. I never noticed a bell,’” Coaley said. “They said, ‘we’ll take care of that.’”
So in the ultimate family project, Jim and Patty’s oldest son Clint Coaley of Festus researched the project and purchased a brass bell. Their son Shannon Coaley of Hillsboro found a piece of wood to mount the bell and with sanding help from 10-year-old grandson Isaiah, the finished product was presented to the hospital to install in the new infusion center.
“We appreciate the donation by the Coaley family,” said Eric Ammons, president Mercy Hospital Jefferson. “It is indicative of how Jim approached his treatment and his heart for helping others. Our nurses say that his positive attitude is infectious and the bell brings that to life.”
Ringing the bell to symbolize the end of cancer treatments is becoming more common in cancer centers across the country. In addition to the satisfaction it brings the person who rings the bell, other patients being treated in the center can use the sound as encouragement.
It was during a routine physical examination and chest x-ray that Dr. Gary Sides discovered a spot on Jim Coaley’s lung. A smoker for 53 years, the 65-year-old may not have been completely surprised by the diagnosis.
“It was stage 3 small cell cancer in the right lower lung,” Coaley said. He was assigned an aggressive therapy of chemo and radiation treatments to “hammer” the spot beginning Dec. 18. “I had 28 radiation treatments and three sessions of chemo that lasted eight hours, four hours and four hours.”
Coaley lost his hair but never lost his spirit. He gave credit to his family and the caregivers in the cancer center, specifically calling out nurses, Julie O’Connor, Suzie Schrum and Jane Hitt.
“They put up with my stuff. They are all cheerful, and would sit and talk with me whenever they had downtime,” Coaley said. “They would give me the information on what they were going to do. All throughout, they have been super.”
The new infusion center features 10 private areas with individual televisions and comfortable chairs for the patient and a visitor. Coaley gave high praise to the facility and the new Mercy Clinic oncologists who have guided his treatment.
“This is like a first class hotel, nothing like the old center,” Coaley said. “Dr. Shawn Donnegan and Dr. Heidi Rodgers have been great. They would sit and talk with me. I really felt comfortable with them.”
He said he hoped the bell and his story would provide inspiration for others. The bell is mounted on the wall next to the door for patients to ring when they leave the center for the last time. A plaque ordered by Patty Coaley hangs on the wall next to the bell.
It says, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. Smile … this is one of those moments!”
“I had to stay positive. There are so many sad things that happen here, so it is nice to be able to provide something positive,” Coaley said.
At a follow-up appointment with Mercy Clinic Oncologiost Shawn Donnegan, MD, on April 21, Coaley received his “all clear” report, so he stopped by the infusion center one more time -- to ring the bell.