Roper St. Francis Healthcare builds a state-of-the-art facility to treat blood and lymph node cancers, thanks to a former patient
WRITTEN BY Emily Turner
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Scott Henderson
When retired steel industry veteran Rodney Mott received a bone marrow cancer diagnosis in 2014, he investigated programs nationwide before electing to receive treatment at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. Grateful for the superior care that he received throughout his successful bone marrow transplant, Rodney and his wife, Vicki, donated 2.5 million dollars to Roper Hospital in 2017. “Their gift has helped maximize the quality of care and comfort that Roper Hospital is able to provide within our bone marrow transplant program,” explains medical director Dr. George Geils, Jr. This past January, the Mott Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy program officially welcomed its first patients into an updated facility on the sixth floor of Roper Hospital. The refurbished unit, which houses 15 beds and additional outpatient facilities, is designed to accommodate the entire transplant process in one specialized area. Here, Dr. Geils details the innovative services and treatments now offered in the expanded facility:
HOUSE CALLS (HC): How did such a large donation allow Roper St. Francis Healthcare to achieve its vision for this program?
Dr. George Geils (GG): The former transplant unit was certainly adequate, but we wanted to offer much more to our patients and their families. We are proud of the results we have been able to achieve, among the best anywhere, but we wanted to offer more. Within a setting of bone marrow transplantation, there are things that simply can’t be achieved without donor funds. Through the generosity of the Motts and others, we’ve been able to think outside the box to build a far larger and far nicer unit and to offer services that other programs would long for. It’s not just the treatment—it’s also the creature comforts that make an extended hospital stay much more enjoyable.
HC: What diagnoses are treated in this unit, and what services do you provide for those patients?
GG: Several diagnoses qualify for transplant therapy, ranging from acute leukemia to multiple myeloma to lymphoma and testicular cancer. Patients with blood or lymph node cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma occasionally need very intensive treatment and lengthy hospital stays to cure their cancers. With their immune systems weakened by disease and treatment, these patients require a safe, protective environment with skilled nursing support to gain the best outcomes from their treatments. Our unit provides a completely protective environment for all patients and is also equipped to provide care for patients who are at risk for the most serious airborne infections. Using advanced air handling technologies, we can minimize the risks for patients and improve their odds of survival.
HC: How do patients benefit from having this center in Charleston?
GG: The benefits are twofold: first, patients’ quality of life while undergoing sometimes very rigorous treatments is improved, because this new facility is designed to offer individualized care for every patient at every level for some of the most threatening diagnoses. The other (and perhaps most important) is our ability to offer the most effective, cutting-edge therapies within the confines of Roper Hospital. Patients from our area do not need to travel great distances to receive state-of-the-art care for their cancers.
HC: How does a larger facility enhance patient care?
GG: The capacity of this unit allows us to broaden the spectrum of care that we’re able to provide and to bring in exciting investigational therapies that may improve the care rate for these diseases. With donor funding, we have virtually doubled the capacity of the former transplant unit and have expanded our research offerings to include the newest immune therapies for cancer. Additionally, we recognize the value of family support for the patient and the enormous stress that family members can suffer as well. We now have dedicated family areas, including overnight rooms where someone can stay at no charge in support of a loved one in the unit.
HC: What sort of reception has the unit received?
GG: Patients are very excited about the care we can now provide and the patient-friendly environment this new unit offers. Likewise, doctors, nurses and support staff are excited to work in such a pleasant, top-notch facility while caring for our patients.