Knowledge, humor, kindness make U of C oncology nurse a friend to patients

Nurses Week 2019

This week is a special week on the Medical Watch, WGN News is honoring the unsung heroes of medicine — nurses. From cancer treatment to rehab, we tackle memory care and end of life.

When a person gets a cancer diagnosis, it can be overwhelming, terrifying and paralyzing. They choose the best doctor, the most effective treatment. Then they begin. And who do they see every time they come into the hospital? Oncology nurses. As WGN News continues highlighting the critical care nurses provide, we head to the infusion floor at University of Chicago Medicine.

For two decades, Noy Guevarra surrounded himself with cancer patients. He saw 200 per day in a 10-hour shift. Sound exhausting? Not for this dedicated RN.

“I can honestly say that I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Guevarra said.

What he does would astound you. His shifts are filled with greeting patients, starting IV’s, drawing blood, managing infusions and navigating care. On the day WGN News was with him, a patient barely had a vein capable of getting a blood sample. With patience and a smile, Guevarra worked and soothed at the same time.

He even offered guidance and said, “You are also going to have CT today, I noticed. So, after your treatment, tell them not to remove your IV so that they don’t have to stick you again.”

Guevarra runs the samples to the lab transport, stops to fill out the electronic chart, then it's back for patient number two who has a complicated case. Chris Sperry comes in every two weeks.

“This patient is receiving maintenance chemotherapy for his cancer,” Guevarra said. “And part of his treatment is an intra hepatic pump. In layman’s terms, it’s the liver pump.”

Guevarra has to calculate dosing, adding math to his many caregiving tasks.

“It’s very critical that we instill the correct amount, too, so we avoid the discomfort and the friction and complications,” he said.

While this medical situation is very different from the last, one thing remains the same, Guevarra calls his patients ‘friend.’

“It does make a big difference,” Sperry said. “I think people would be surprised how just a familiar face, a friendly smile, someone who inquires a little bit about how you are doing beyond just the straight medical questions, those little kindnesses make a huge difference. And Noy’s been a big part of that for me, and I certainly appreciate it. And I think I’ve benefited from it from a health standpoint as well.”

As colon cancer spread to his lungs and liver, visits here are Sperry’s future. He said he’s thankful for the special care.

“It’s really nice to have that personal touch as well as great professionalism,” he said.

That includes proper disposal of syringes. Every detail is essential.

Then the it’s onto the next patient. Never mundane, Guevarra said his work is a gift.

“A lot of these patients when they come here, especially on their first treatment, they are overwhelmed, they are just scared to death, and I think part of our job as nurses is to make them feel comfortable,” Guevarra said. “I remember, my dad was a physician and he would always tell me you have to add humor at your job. My mom used to tell me that, too.  And it really helps. It’s about the trust. If you think about it, they can trust their lives to us because we’re the ones doing it, doing the procedures, giving the chemotherapy, managing their side effects. When they tell me, ‘Noy, you love your job don’t you?’ That’s just such an amazing feeling because you’re not even doing anything extra, you were just doing your normal work, but they see that in you. And for me that’s so, it’s very rewarding!”

Patients featured  have consented to WGN News's filming and sharing their stories.

More on WGN's coverage of Nurses Week 2019

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