Cancer survivor returns to help create Cancer Institute
Working on the new Cancer Institute at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis was one job construction worker Alain Laugere didn't want to miss.
"I owe my life to St. Francis," said Laugere, a job superintendent with The Law Company.
Helping create a more patient- and staff-friendly atmosphere at the hospital where he had a life-saving procedure 18 years ago was important to the 63-year-old grandfather.
In 1993, Laugere was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He also had an inoperable cancerous stomach tumor that had become attached to a blood vessel feeding his legs. His chemotherapy treatments had to be stopped when he lost feeling in his extremities.
The only hope for the native Frenchman, 45 at the time and still raising a family, was a bone marrow transplant through a National Cancer Institute clinical study at Via Christi. Such transplants were a rather new and excruciating process. Science has since greatly advanced the treatment, including a much improved survival rate.
Two days before Thanksgiving Day in 1993, Laugere received an autologous bone marrow transplant, meaning his own marrow was collected, filtered for stem cells and frozen to be transplanted back into him. During his monthlong hospitalization at Via Christi, new healthy stem cells - the producers of all blood cells - were being regenerated to put him on the road to a cancer-free life.
One of the first things he did when he returned to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis to work on renovations that started in April was to reconnect with one of the nurses who'd cared for him at the time. Jeannine Randles, RN, still works on 7SW.
Randles calls such survivor visits, "God opening a window," to remind her of patient success stories.
"It just blows my mind that I can come back 18 years later and serve this hospital," said Laugere, calling this opportunity "one of the greatest things I've done."