'We are forever indebted to our patients, who forge new paths of lifesaving discovery'
Walk down the main hallway of the Thomas Building at the Hutchinson Center and along one wall you will pass displays celebrating Nobel laureates, corporate donors and special-event fund-raisers. There's the requisite mission statement and institutional description, even a donated Rodin sculpture.
However, just past these is a display that is quite different. The panels and three-dimensional elements on this section of hallway wall congratulate the Center's patients. People like you, those alive and those who have passed on, honored for what you — and they — did.
Yes, you came here for lifesaving treatment for terrible diseases. But by coming to the Center, you also contributed mightily to the knowledge gained by physicians and researchers so that the patients who came after you would benefit from what they learned. For this, the Center and its staff thank you deeply.
"We are forever indebted to our patients, who forge new paths of lifesaving discovery." Those words are inscribed on a plaque of the patient recognition wall. In explaining why this is so, one of the panels begins like this: "What if you had the power to save lives? Thousands of lives, perhaps including your own. Some might call you a hero."
It would be easy for any medical institution to tout its expertise. But how many turn the tables and herald its patients as well? This celebration of you, those who came before you and those who come after you as partners in care and research, is a uniquely designed recognition.
The patient-recognition wall was unveiled in July 2005 during the patient reunion celebration, an event that occurs every five years or so for patients who are at least five years post-transplant. "As our partners in cancer research, you have made contributions from which bone-marrow transplantation and other therapies were successfully pioneered here in Seattle," Dr. Paul Martin, director of the Long-Term Follow-Up Program, said at the reunion. "Not all have lived to see this outcome of their contributions, but all have created a legacy that will continue to grow."
The project's centerpiece is a spiral metal sculpture timeline that notes how many bone-marrow or stem-cell transplants were done at the Center through its 30-year history. The spiral extends well past the last date and number displayed.
To make the display personal, a large plasma-screen television is mounted vertically and shows a continuous loop of still photographs and words from many of the patients who attended the reunion and other transplant survivors.
A group of Center staff and former patients directed how the recognition wall took shape.
Michael Rubin, a Center transplant patient and employee in the Development Department, said the wall "acknowledges that survivors and those who passed away have a voice and that their experience touched the lives of all they encountered." It also validates some aspects of the transplant experience, he said. "It makes me feel more than a patient identification number."
Jeffrey Slowik is a two-time transplant veteran, 1982 and 1984. "Until you stand there and look at the wall you don't realize how big transplantation has become and how many people it has helped," he said. Slowik has attended all of the patient reunions and maintained contact with his caregivers. He said the wall was the talk of the reunion. "It truly is a patient-recognition wall because of myself and others who had input on its design," said Slowik "It's great. The wall symbolizes that it takes both sides to make this work. It should be inspiring to staff, too, because it provides perspective of why they are here and that they're doing a good job."
Jennifer Aspelund also served on the committee representing her son, North, who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4 and had a transplant at age 8. "When you walk down the hallway and see where it starts, the way the photos come up on the screen, the content, the whole thing is moving," she said.
The wall is also for the doctors and researchers "to see how far they've come" and for people who pass through the Center to get a perspective on how transplantation has evolved and how many lives it has saved, Jennifer said. "I see it as a thank you to the patients and as an honor to the Hutch. When you see that photo of North and his sister, Brooke, that's a thank you to the Hutch."
The video display on the recognition wall is updated regularly. If you are interested in sending a photo and note, please send an e-mail message with your full name to email@example.com. A staff member will reply with instructions about how to participate.