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Loyola opens new unit for cancer patients

Loyola University Medical Center has opened a new 20-bed unit for patients undergoing stem cell transplants for cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

The unit is designed to improve clinical outcomes while providing many of the comforts of home.

“We expect the innovative design will help to improve and accelerate patients’ recoveries, while the home-like amenities will provide a comforting environment for patients and their families,” says Patrick Stiff, MD, division director of Hematology/Oncology and medical director of Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.

The unit treats patients with hematologic (blood) cancers. Patients receive high-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation to kill cancer cells. Because these treatments also destroy immune system cells, patients are infused with stem cells derived from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. These stem cells develop into new immune cells. Patients typically stay in the unit for three or four weeks.

The unit has two 10-bed wings – The Coleman Foundation Bone Marrow Unit and the Donald P. and Byrd M. Kelly Family Foundation Oncology Unit. Four rooms are licensed for intensive care.

At the front of each wing is a medication room, supply room, and nutrition room. The floor plan ensures that a nurse never has to walk more than 100 feet to reach a patient’s room.

Lighting in patient rooms will align with patients’ circadian rhythms. During the day, blue lighting, which makes patients more alert and energized, can complement standard lighting. The blue lighting is turned off at night and replaced by amber lighting, which is significantly less arousing. This novel lighting system was developed in conjunction with Loyola’s sleep program and is the first system of its kind for this type of care.

The unit is designed to reduce the risk of infections in patients who have weakened immune systems. Ventilation for the entire unit has HEPA filtration and positive air pressure, so patients can breathe filtered air outside as well as inside their rooms. Handwashing sinks are located outside patients’ rooms.

The bathrooms in patient rooms have bathtubs rather than showers, since even the cleanest shower heads can harbor pathogens. Bathing in a bathtub also reduces the risk of exposing a patient’s central IV line to water.

Bathrooms have sliding doors, allowing easy access for patients with IV poles. And a patient can walk a straight line from the bed to the bathroom, reducing the risk of falls.

All rooms are private, equipped with flatscreen televisions, and wired for cable and Wi-Fi. Daybeds enable loved ones to stay overnight in comfort.

The unit includes an area for art therapy, a consultation room, a meditation room, and a family lounge and kitchenette, where friends and family can cook meals, watch movies, celebrate family events, or attend support-group meetings.

A patient exercise room includes three recumbent bicycles and a treadmill. Studies have shown that exercise improves survival by, for example, reducing the risk of pneumonia.

The hospital has begun construction on an additional 20 beds for other oncology patients. The cost for the entire project is $18 million. Funding was provided by The Donald P. and Byrd M. Kelly Family Foundation, The Coleman Foundation, and other generous donors.

Loyola has treated more blood cancer patients with stem cell transplants than any other center in Illinois, and has one of the largest unrelated donor transplant programs in the world. Loyola physicians have performed more than 2,700 stem cell transplants, including about 150 cord blood transplants. Loyola has a particular expertise in treating patients who cannot find matching donors from either their families or the National Marrow Donor Program. Loyola receives referrals from throughout the midwest, including other academic medical centers in Chicago. Loyola is among the first centers to use umbilical cord donations for the treatment of certain adult cancers.

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