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There for Emergencies

Volunteer Voice - Fall 2007


When patients and their families arrive at M. D.  Anderson’s emergency center, they often feel anxiety, stress or fear. However, volunteers are there to help comfort them through the tough times.

Emergency center volunteers spend their time visiting with patients and families in the hallways and waiting areas, often offering a warm blanket or a magazine while they wait. In addition to being a support to patients and caregivers, volunteers helped faculty and staff transition in May from the old center to the new facility located near the Alkek Hospital.

Doug Reese checks in with Margaret Dow, M.D., before he starts his visits with patients and families. “Volunteers are so good with the patients, who look forward to seeing them and ask for them when they come in,” says Kathy Vanfossen, lead services coordinator in the emergency center.

“They were instrumental in opening the new emergency center and stocking the shelves and giving tours,” says Kathy Vanfossen, lead services coordinator. “They are so good with the patients. In fact, our patients look forward to seeing the volunteers and ask for them when they come in.”

M. D. Anderson is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center to have its own emergency center. Most patients treated in the emergency center have medical or surgical complications and side effects related to chemotherapy, radiation or underlying cancers. 45% of those cared for in the emergency center are admitted to M. D. Anderson.

The new space is nearly double the size of the previous center. It has 43 private rooms, four isolation rooms, three resuscitation rooms, a pediatric room, a special procedure room, a bereavement room, a pharmacy and diagnostic imaging services.

One familiar face that many patients may see there is long-time volunteer, Doug Reese, who volunteers each Wednesday. Doug began volunteering after his parents and brother were diagnosed with cancer. Although many people would be intimidated to work with patients in distress, Reese finds that the atmosphere helps him.

“The environment is so professional. Nurses and doctors take the time to get to know the patients and families and can prepare me for situations if necessary,” says Reese. “At the end of the day, I’m satisfied knowing that maybe I made a few people more comfortable while they were here.”


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center