Wempe family proud to support chemotherapy unit

The family that donated towards the new chemotherapy unit renovations at St. Joseph’s Hospital made the contribution as a tribute to their family.

The St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation announced on June 6 that the renovated chemotherapy ward would be named the Mel, Margaret and Clinton Grimes Chemotherapy Unit.

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Stacey Wempe, who is the daughter of Mel and Margaret, and the sister of Clinton, purchased the naming rights for the unit along with her husband, local dentist Dr. Keith Wempe, and wanted it named after her parents and brother, all of whom are dead.

The hospital announced plans to renovate and expand the chemotherapy unit during the Radiothon for Life for the hospital foundation back in April. Before the end of the fundraiser, an anonymous donor had stepped forward with $50,000 for the naming rights to the unit.

Stacey Wempe told the Mercury that her family wanted to do something to honour the memory of her family members, and the best way to do that was to support the chemotherapy unit.

Her father Mel’s cancer was very advanced when he was diagnosed and he spent countless hours receiving chemotherapy at numerous hospitals. It helped extend his life.

“They gave him eight months (to live), but he was able to live 2 1/2 years after that (diagnosis),” said Wempe.

Her mother, meanwhile, was diagnosed with cancer at a point in which chemotherapy would not have made a difference.

“The doctors at St. Joe’s were very instrumental in getting her comfortable,” said Wempe.

Both of her parents receive palliative care at the hospital.

Wempe said her parents always emphasized the value of supporting the community.

“The community was very dear to mom and dad’s hearts, and to our hearts, and so it was very important that we help the community,” said Wempe. “Mom and dad were very adamant about helping others.”

When she saw the renovated chemotherapy unit for the first time, it brought tears to Wempe’s eyes. She said it has a home-like feel that will be better for patients.

“If families don’t have to travel so much, and if they can be right close to their loved ones, that’s really a huge support for them,” she said.

Travis Frank, the executive director at the hospital foundation, said the hospital had to decide the name for the unit and complete the renovation before recognizing the donors.

“Stacey and Keith have been unbelievable contributors to our hospital foundation,” said Frank. “They have given large donations several times.”

The chemotherapy area can treat up to three patients at a time, the same number as before the renovation. But Frank said the former room was a small area with three chairs for the patients, and little else. There was one television, and it was very difficult for nursing staff to get in to see all of the patients.

It was uncomfortable to work in and sit in, he said.

“The new space has three individual rooms that can be opened up so the patients can talk together, or closed off so they can have privacy,” said Frank. “Each patient has their own TV with phone jacks so they can have that kind of comfort while they’re in there for very long hours.”

There is also more room for nursing staff to work, and there is a second chair in each space for family members or caregivers. That wouldn’t have been possible in the old ward.

“It’s basically a more comfortable space, which is a big goal,” said Frank.

The chemotherapy unit offer treatments up to five days per week and has about 600 treatments in the average year.

The first patient received treatment on June 7. . That patient was consulted on how the room should look.

He also noted that since the new chemotherapy unit is near the emergency department, and they were able to create a nice donor wall, the foundation is going to encourage more donations to the chemotherapy unit.

Names will be displayed on the donor wall, and that money will go to improvements in the pharmacy, where chemotherapy medication is handled.

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