By Kirsten Bannan, System Communications Intern

For patients diagnosed with cancer, treatment may mean having surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, or a combination of all three. But, cancer patients at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) recently were treated to another type of therapy — one that indulged their inner artist and helped them step away from their illness for a moment.

The UMGCCC hosted a PaintFest America event July 7, and dozens of patients, staff members and family members spent the morning painting colorful canvas murals set up on tables in two locations in the cancer center. Several patients who weren’t able to join in the group activity even had the opportunity to paint in their hospital rooms.

The Foundation for Hospital Art is bringing PaintFest to cancer centers in every state as part of a 50day national tour that will end in New York City August 23. The nonprofit organization’s goal is to bring together families, patients and staff at cancer facilities in each state though art. “Paintfest America was nothing short of fabulous,” says Madison Friz, a 16-year-old leukemia patient who took part in the UMGCCC event after a week-long hospital stay. “As a cancer patient, it feels really good to know there are people out there in this world who care about you. To leave my hospital room to paint a picture and forget my sickness is a feeling I can’t even describe.”

UMGCCC was the only stop in Maryland on the tour, and Madison was chosen to help paint the state’s panel featuring a Baltimore oriole and a black-eyed Susan. All of the state panels will be assembled into a 10- by-15-foot mural on the final day of the tour and then returned to the hospitals where they were painted.

One of the volunteers, Morgan Feight, whose grandfather John Feight started the Foundation for Hospital Art, says that artwork provides a welcome distraction to patients and family members once the art is mounted on the walls.”

“Oftentimes, patients view hospitals as drab, starkly sterile buildings. By hanging vibrant murals throughout the hallways, we hope to change patients’ perspective and give them a sense of rejuvenating joy and hope as they stare at the designs,” she says.

Peggy Torr, a UMGCC nurse for more than 30 years, says patients were excited to take up paintbrushes and paint to participate in this event. “They were a part of something much bigger for the moment – an opportunity to calm the spirit and fuel the soul. It was palpable!”

She adds, “As healthcare professionals, we can be so task-oriented that having the opportunity to do something for our patients, instead of to them, was just amazing.”

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By Maggie Gill, System Communications Intern

Now is the time to give, says the American Red Cross. On July 5, the not-for-profit organization issued an emergency call for blood and platelets. The request comes on the heels of a particularly slow donation season, when the available supply fell 39,000 donations short of hospital need – a trend that is expected to continue in the following weeks, as regular donors flock to the beaches and mountains for the summer holidays. Unfortunately for the five million Americans who rely on transfusions each year, a vacation is a luxury that they can’t afford.

“We urge people to give now to help hospital patients who depend on blood and platelets being available when they need it,” said Chris Hrouda, executive vice president of the Red Cross Biomedical Services, in a press release. “Summer is one of the most challenging seasons to collect enough blood, but patients need blood no matter what time of the year it is.”

Making up the deficit will require the participation of first-time donors, especially. But often, it’s these individuals who are the most hesitant to roll up their sleeves. One survey found that the top reason that would-be donors decline to give is a fear of needles. The Red Cross recommends that needle-phobes focus on the difference that their gift will make: a single pint of blood – the amount that’s typically collected in a draw – can save the lives of up to three other people. If you count yourself among the ten percent of the population that experiences fear around needles, it may also help to know what to expect on donation day. Here’s a summary of the simple, four step process.

  1. Registration. When you arrive at the blood drive, you’ll see a registration table staffed by a Red Cross employee or volunteer, who will sign you in and review the eligibility guidelines and donation information with you. Be prepared to show your donor card, driver’s license or other form of identification.
  2. Health History and Mini-Physical. This includes a private, confidential interview with a second Red Cross employee or volunteer about your health and travel history. Afterward, he or she will take your temperature, pulse and blood pressure, and prick your finger for a hemoglobin sample.
  3. Donation. Although you can expect your visit to take about an hour, the blood draw itself only lasts eight to ten minutes. The Red Cross attendant will clean a site on your arm with an alcohol swab and insert a brand-new, sterile needle into the vein. During this time, you can read, listen to music or talk with a friend. After the draw is complete, the attendant will remove the needle and cover the site with a bandage.
  4. Refreshments. In the refreshments area, you can enjoy complimentary cookies and apple juice – and the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve made a difference in the lives of others!

You can read more about what to expect Red Cross’ website.

If you’re a first-time donor, or if you haven’t donated in a while, take a minute to familiarize yourself with the eligibility guidelines. As of May, male blood and platelet donors must have a minimum hemoglobin level of 13.0 g/dL – an increase from the previous 12.5 g/dL. (For females, the minimum acceptable level is still 12.5 g/dL.) Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that’s responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the tissues in the rest of the body. The Red Cross tests all prospective donors’ hemoglobin levels as part of the mini-physical, to ensure that they’re able to give safely; individuals who don’t meet the requirement are invited to come back later, once they’ve raised their levels.

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Are you ready to save a life (or three)? University of Maryland Medical Center’s next blood drive will take place in the Gudelsky Hallway on:

  • Tuesday, July 26 (8 am – 8 pm)
  • Wednesday, July 27 (8 am – 8 pm)
  • Thursday, July 28 (7 am – 7 pm)

Donors receive a $5-coupon valid at all UMMC vendors and will be entered in a drawing for two tickets to an upcoming Orioles game.

Walk-ins are welcome, but should be advised that appointments are honored first. Click here to schedule yours today! To save even more time at the donation site, you can also print or download a RapidPass, which allows you to read the education materials and answer the health history questions before your appointment, in the comfort of your home.

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It was a scary moment for Jody Wright. Her husband, Carl, needed an aortic valve replacement and the operation was being performed by a surgeon they had just met – Bradley Taylor, MD, MPH.

If the surgery went as planned, Carl could be on the path back to the life he once knew, going on walks and creating stone sculptures. If it went wrong? As Carl puts it, he might have been shaking St. Peter’s hand sooner than planned.

The surgery was a success, and Jody and Carl couldn’t have been more pleased with the care they received from the University of Maryland Medical Center and Dr. Taylor.

Jody, who has a background in film, produced this video to show her appreciation for the life-saving treatment, as well as the support UMMC provided during their stay:

We chatted with Jody to learn more about her time at the University of Maryland and why she produced the video. See her answers here:

Q: Why did you want to make this video?

A: The reason why I wanted to do this video is that I know a lot of people may be going to the UMMC with the same fears and concerns.  I wanted to address the big elephant in the room – that perhaps for a patient at age 60, surgeons wouldn’t be as concerned about your outcome as someone with all their life ahead of them. [click to continue…]

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Living with Mesothelioma: A New Normal

July 15, 2016

In December of 2007, Timonium resident Jen Blair was pregnant with her second son, Kevin. It was a “very painful pregnancy.” She went to a few doctors, who told her the pain was normal. The pain returned, “worse than ever,” six weeks after giving birth to Kevin.  More doctors. More tests. She was first told […]

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Protect Your Skin This Summer

July 14, 2016

By Kirsten Bannan, System Communications Intern As the summer progresses the initial sunburn has faded and it’s time to think about protecting your skin. Everyone wants that bronze glow that comes with a summer tan, but most people are not aware of the damage the sun can cause to your skin and your health. Here […]

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Safe Firework Fun

Thumbnail image for Safe Firework Fun June 30, 2016

By Kirsten Bannan, System Communications Intern Summer is in full swing and as the temperature increases, so does the amount of summer events happening. The 4th of July is right around the corner and everyone knows it is a popular holiday to spend time with family and friends and enjoy some summer traditions such as […]

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Celebrate Cataract Awareness Month by Looking After Your Eyes

June 23, 2016

By Maggie Gill, System Communications Intern The month of June is dedicated to raising awareness for an eye condition that affects approximately 22 million Americans ages 40 and older: cataracts. A cataract is a clouding in the lens, the part of the eye that focuses light on the retina – much like a camera’s lens. […]

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Taking Treatment & a Half Marathon, Together, One Step at A Time

June 20, 2016

The relationship between a cancer patient and their care provider is a special one.  Between radiation therapy appointments, hours of chemotherapy, and even sometimes surgery and recovery, there’s not much that can strengthen this bond, besides running a half marathon. But Tiffani Tyer, a nurse practitioner in Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland Greenebaum […]

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UM Children’s Hospital Patient Gives Back in a Big Way

Thumbnail image for UM Children’s Hospital Patient Gives Back in a Big Way June 15, 2016

Michelle Kaminaris, a kindergarten teacher at Hampstead Hill Academy in East Baltimore, has seen kids miss school for all kinds of reasons. Like most of us, she never expected her own child to miss school due to a serious illness. But when her daughter Eva (an eighth grader at Hampstead Hill Academy) started showing flu-like […]

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Pediatric Residents at Univeristy of Maryland Reach Out and Read

May 10, 2016

A string of rainy days in Baltimore made Friday the perfect day to stay inside and read a good book. And thanks to the efforts of some hard-working Pediatric Residents at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, more than 200 students in Baltimore City had a new story to read! Throughout the morning, the […]

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