Brittain Bass, AYA Life Specialist has seen first-hand the importance of AYA (adolescent young adult) space and how his role adds value to those on their cancer journey. With the support of Teen Cancer America and Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital in Greenville South Carolina, who recently opened their inpatient AYA space, there is lots of buzz going around and the sentiments are very positive.
“Patients talk a lot about space and how the lighting, and openness makes it feel more like a ‘home away from home.’ The design of the space which has wide open common areas allows them to spread out and not be stuck in a small hospital room all day,” says Bass. “They can also receive treatment in the communal areas. It’s there that they can enjoy watching movies and spending time with loved ones during infusions. One patient shared that getting treatment in a ‘living room style’ space allows for a sense of normalcy.”
One of the areas include a dining space with a large table that can accommodate families so that they can share a meal together, similar to what they would be doing at home.
“I was once able to provide pizza and refreshments to a family whose loved one was in a tough situation,” said Bass. “We sat around the dining table and were able to process feelings together while still trying to maintain a sense of normalcy.”
Feelings of isolation throughout the treatment experience is not an uncommon theme that the adolescent and young adult cancer population often experience. Brittain says he has noticed this space often helps alleviate some of those feelings. This is also a place where patients get to meet and be around their peers in similar circumstances.
“Seeing this has perhaps been the most rewarding part of my job so far is watching patients who normally spend their time here alone be able to sit and laugh and share stories with other AYAs, sometimes transcending language barriers, which is a truly remarkable,” says Bass. “There is a sense of community here. There are many ups and downs to this journey and they affect both the patient and the family alike so connection is incredibly important.”
Something special that we have here in our space is our rock cairn. It has been a really awesome addition. Patients are given rocks to meditate with, hold, and ideally decorate with a personal statement or encouragement to others who will visit the facility in the future. Seeing how much this means to our patients and watching the rocks build up in the cairn full of encouraging notes and statements has added a really incredible and personal touch to our space.