Family shows support for leukemia patient despite coronavirus (COVID-19) visitor restrictions
Since Robert Alvarado was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in 2014, his family has accompanied him to each appointment, from quick blood draws to 6-hour-long immunoglobulin infusions.
But his most recent appointment was different. Like other hospitals, MD Anderson has temporarily stopped allowing visitors at all of its campuses, in order to protect its patients and workforce members from the 2019 novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19. This meant that Robert would have to go to his infusion appointment by himself.
A new way to show support for leukemia patient
When the Alvarado family learned about the new visitation policy, they were disappointed, but they started working on a plan to continue showing Robert their support.
“Once the staff called and told us that he wouldn’t be able to have visitors with him at the clinic, we decided to make signs,” says Robert’s daughter, Alisa. “It was the closest thing to being there with him.”
When Robert’s wife, daughter and granddaughter dropped him off for his infusion appointment, they held up the posters as he walked into the building.
“I was very surprised by the signs,” Robert says. “And I thought it was great that my wife, daughter and grandkids all worked together to make them.”
Intravenous immunoglobulin infusions strengthen his immune system
Robert’s care team has been observing and monitoring his leukemia since his diagnosis, but he’s never actually needed leukemia treatment. That’s because his cancer is not progressing and he does not experience adverse symptoms from it.
However, after he began having recurrent episodes of pneumonia last year, he was referred to Janet Tu, M.D., at MD Anderson in Sugar Land. He now receives intravenous immunoglobulin infusions each month to strengthen his immune system.
“The treatment seems to be working,” Robert says. “I haven’t been in the hospital for pneumonia since I started getting the infusions.”
Family’s support makes a difference after leukemia diagnosis
Robert believes that, along with his MD Anderson care team, his family’s close involvement has helped him through cancer.
“I’ve had the support of all my family, and my wife has done an amazing job,” Robert says. “Being there is a big deal.”
Going with Robert to each appointment is one of the many ways that his family shows their support. So when they couldn’t be there in person, they got creative. As the sign made by Robert’s wife, Linda, reads: “I can’t be with you today, but you’re not alone” and “We will fight this together.” She also thanks the MD Anderson in Sugar Land staff.
“Visiting the clinic right now is a little different, with the extra screening and without any family members being there with you,” he says. “But my family and the clinic staff all do their best to make it seem normal.”
Still, the Alvarado family recognizes that this is a challenging time not just for patients and families, but also for the staff caring for them.
“When we dropped Robert off for his infusion before 8 in the morning, many of the employees were walking in for their shifts, and they noticed our posters. One of the staff at the front desk came out and asked if she could take our photo,” Alisa says. “We hope all of the nurses, doctors and clinic staff got a smile from our signs and know how grateful we are for the work they do.”
Robert’s wife, Linda; granddaughter, Gracyn; daughter, Alisa; grandson Gibo; and Robert pose with the signs that Robert’s family held outside MD Anderson in Sugar Land when they dropped him off for his infusion.
We hope all of the nurses, doctors and clinic staff got a smile from our signs and know how grateful we are for the work they do.