Small acts of kindness – a friendly smile, an offer of something to drink, the feel of a comforting hand on her shoulder – are of such importance in Amy Wyant’s life, she becomes nearly breathless as she describes her experience as a patient at Taylorville Memorial Hospital, where she finds these tender gestures in casual abundance.
In April, Wyant was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a type of cancer that causes abnormalities in the cells found in bone marrow, which leads to insufficient production of new blood cells. In Wyant’s case, she will ultimately need to undergo a stem cell transplant.
Wyant’s condition and treatment, coupled with restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, have forced the outgoing and sociable 28-year-old to isolate herself (along with her husband, Travis) in their rural home, away from her social life and beloved work visiting clients in their homes as a parent educator with the Christian County Regional Office of Education.
Casual social interaction with strangers and acquaintances alike is an aspect of daily life pre-COVID-19 that many people long to return to once restrictions are lifted. For Wyant, as she fights to maintain her strength and outlook in the face of serious illness, even the briefest human connection is life-giving.
“The little things mean so much, especially at this time,” she said. “With COVID-19 restrictions, [hospital patients] can’t bring anyone in with you – the familiar faces at TMH are so reassuring to me,” she said. “I feel like I have a one-on-one relationship with each of them. We talk about our dogs or different things going on at home, and I feel I’ve come to know them.”
Wyant visits TMH twice each week to have blood drawn and tested. Both those weekly checks are typically followed by transfusions of blood or platelets the following day. “Usually, when I get to TMH, I don’t feel very well, but the person who works at the front desk keeps an eye out for my car and she comes out and greets me with a wheelchair,” said Wyant. “The people who check me in always call me by name and do everything they can to make me feel comfortable.
“The nurses who do my blood work are phenomenal,” said Wyant. “I can see they genuinely care about me.”
During her transfusion sessions, which last about three hours, Wyant finds comfort in the details of her treatment space.
“It might sound silly,” said Wyant, “but when I [had the first transfusion at TMH] I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they have a TV in the room!’ I’m familiar with getting treatment in one big open room where you are with everyone else who is getting treatment. At TMH, I get my own room and my own TV and they offer snacks and drinks – they are so accommodating and so good at making me feel comfortable.”
If all goes according to the plan of her care team, Wyant will undergo a stem cell transplant at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis sometime in the fall. She is currently one-third of the way through several rounds of chemotherapy and will continue her weekly visits to TMH for testing and transfusions leading up to her transplant.
“In an uncertain and scary time in my life,” said Wyant, “it’s almost like I’m with family.”