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Same care, different place: Quick thinking keeps treatment on track for young patient

A child with cancer needs lifesaving treatment, her dad is awaiting a COVID-19 test result, and other young patients must be kept safe – all these factors converged on the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Infusion Clinic of Penn State Children’s Hospital, and staff sprang into action.

“We were between a rock and a hard place – the child still needs a treatment, but the family poses a risk to our immunosuppressed patients,” said Jamie Boyer, registered nurse and practice manager for the clinic. “We knew we needed to think outside the box.”

To ensure the 2-year-old girl, who has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, wouldn’t miss a treatment, the staff quickly brainstormed and made a new plan to open an isolation room – a negative pressure room – on the perianesthesia unit, which is currently empty and being prepared to receive COVID-19 patients.

“I met the child and mother at the front door, escorted them to a designated negative pressure room on the second floor, accessed the child’s port, drew labs and handed her off to the anesthesia team,” Boyer said. The child needed both spinal tap and IV chemotherapy, which necessitated anesthesia.

Boyer stayed with the girl throughout the six-hour session.

“The mother was so appreciative,” she said. “They knew their little girl needed her chemo, and the father was devastated that he may have brought the virus home.”

Boyer said she’s never been prouder to be part of the clinic team.

“It took a village, but we worked together and utilized alternative space, performed procedures and administered drugs in a location that was out of our comfort zone,” she said. “And we kept other patients safe.”

Staff was later happy to hear that the girl’s father tested negative for COVID-19.

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