Sometimes, grateful patients are a hospital’s greatest asset.
After John Sullivan was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2001, he went through disfiguring surgery to remove the tumor. Parts of his tongue and cheekbone were removed. Then he endured daily radiation that left him unable to eat. He had a feeding tube in his stomach for two-and-a-half years and excruciating residual facial nerve pain.
“My pain level was a 32 on a scale of 1 to 10,” Sullivan says. “And I was really blue. At home, I stayed in bed nearly every day. I was fading away and had no life in me.”
He was finally admitted to Barnes-Jewish Hospital where his pain was addressed. Thanks to pain medication, he felt much better physically, but his depression continued. “I was ready to die – I wanted to go to heaven,” Sullivan recalls.
It was then that he met Marty Clarke, PA-C, PhDc, a Washington University physician assistant and psycho-oncologist at Barnes-Jewish. “Marty rescued me,” Sullivan says. “That included giving me medication to deal with the depression and anxiety I was having.”
Sullivan saw Clarke daily at one point but now only sees him periodically to help him reduce his pain medication.
In the past couple of years, Sullivan has shared his story with other patients. “My experience strengthens my hope,” he says. “It feels good to help others.”
As he now more fully recognizes how Clarke and the psychosocial services helped him, his desire to help others has grown. “Marty is an incredible person,” Sullivan says. “When I was so sick, even people who love me didn’t know what to do to help. You need professionals to guide you out of the dark and into the light.”
When Sullivan saw how heavy Clarke’s caseload was and how limited the psychosocial oncology resources were, he decided to take action. As a partner with Ken Miesner’s Flowers in Plaza Frontenac, Sullivan realized he had many client and business contacts who could help. Thanks to one of his business relationships, the psychosocial oncology services received a $100,000 gift.
“St. Louis is blessed with so many generous people,” Sullivan says. “I’m honored to know them.”
“John is special because he took his appreciation for our services to the next step and, as a result, we received a substantial gift,” Clarke says. “Many other patients are grateful, too, but don’t know there’s an avenue to help through the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation.”
From Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation’s Giving Magazine, 2009, Issue 2