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After traveling for months to a nationally renowned cancer facility in Texas, Kermit Small reports he is now receiving similar quality care right here at Scotland County Hospital.
In June of 2019, when Scotland County resident Kermit Small began receiving trial treatment for his pancreatic cancer at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, the retired farmer noted “I have some of the top experimental drug people in the world working on me. Some of the team that was with me for the first treatment had just flown in from Israel.”
Fast forward a year to June of 2020 and despite the fact that Small is no longer making the 900-mile trip to Texas every other week that the trial program had required, Small has not changed the tune on his care givers.
“It’s funny, I was traveling all that way to one of the best cancer centers in the world and getting top notch care,” said Small. “Now I am staying right here in Memphis and I still feel like I am getting exactly the same quality of care here at Scotland County Hospital… and that is saying something.”
Small learned this the hard way. Late last year while he was back home, recovering between the cycles of chemotherapy and trial drug treatments, he became ill. He was taken to the emergency room at Scotland County Hospital.
“During that process I witnessed what our folks here can do,” said Small. “They worked with my medical team down in Texas and got me back on my feet.”
That allowed Small to return to his regimen of travel to Texas every two weeks for the trial treatment.
Unfortunately the experimental treatment failed to reduce the size of his tumor, and ultimately he was removed from the process.
That didn’t mean the chemotherapy stopped. Small continues to receive treatment for the cancer. However now he is doing it in the comfort of his local hospital in Memphis.
“Until you go through something like this, you have no idea how valuable that is,” said Small.
While he notes that it definitely is saving him money, to the tunes of thousands of dollars that was spent on travel and lodging during the trips, he said the true benefits cannot be measured in dollars and cents.
“You simply cannot put a price tag on the health benefits of being able to sleep in your own bed, being able to wake up in the morning and pursue whatever it is that your normal life has to offer,” said Small.
The cancer patient notes that none of that would be possible without Scotland County Hospital.
“All these years I have probably been stuck in that group of people that truly don’t appreciate what we have here,” said Small. “Like a lot of folks I probably did my share of grumbling about paying taxes to a hospital when I didn’t really know what it had to offer.”
That changed when Small found himself in the SCH Emergency Room. After he witnessed the local doctors and nurses working with the MD Anderson team remotely, he began to wonder why that couldn’t work for his cancer treatment.
“When I got back down to Texas, I started talking with my doctors about it,” said Small. “They kind of laughed at me and told me it happens all the time. The doc told me he has hundreds of patients all over the world.”
So after Small was removed from the medical trial, he decided to put his life in the hands of his local hospital.
“Honestly it was a pretty easy decision. I’m getting the same medicine as I was in Texas,” said Small. “We get used to believing that bigger is better, and get stuck sometimes on negative stereotypes about smaller, rural service providers thinking it has to be better in the city.”
Once he made the choice to start seeking treatment locally, his Texas medical team began working with the SCH staff. Quincy Medical Group provides oncologists to SCH several days each month.
“Surprisingly that was really all it took,” said Small. “We pretty much have all the same technology, testing and treatment abilities available here,” said Small. “I feel like I am getting exactly the same treatment here that I was getting down in Texas.”
Scotland County Hospital recently completed a $180,000 renovation to their chemotherapy mixing hood and infusion room to meet new government regulations.
“We’ve said for years that we can mix and administer nearly any chemotherapy cocktail that a patient’s oncologist prescribes (no matter the location of the oncologist), right here in Memphis at the hospital. Many local & regional cancer patients are catching on to this, just like Mr. Small,” said Elizabeth Guffey, RN, BSBA, BSN, OCN, CEN Chief Nursing Officer and Oncology Nurse Navigator.
Scotland County Hospital has several veteran nurses trained and certified in chemotherapy administration.
Over a year has passed since Small was first diagnosed. While he admits that the chemotherapy continues to be taxing on his body and mind, he is grateful for all the days in between.
“I don’t know that I have the words to tell people how this has impacted me,” said Small. “I’ve just always felt like we have the freedom to share our negative opinions, and it is only fair that we give praise, where praise is due – and Scotland County Hospital definitely has earned my praise.”