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Chain of Giving Leads to Poignant New Ritual for Cancer Patients at Day Kimball Hospital

October 10, 2017

Cancer care providers at Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam, CT gather around a newly mounted bell that survivors ring to celebrate their last cancer treatment.
Care providers at the Rose Bove LaRose Cancer Center at Day Kimball Hospital gather around the Center’s new ceremonial bell, which is rung by patients to mark their final treatment and celebrate their successful fight against cancer. From left to right: Dr. Mandeep Dhami; front row Kate Tartaglia, Michelle Donahue; back row - Antoinette Plourde, Denise Spirito, Morgan Clark, Marissa Marwell and Serena Cochran.

One year ago, in October, 2016, the Thompson Middle School PTO presented the Rose Bove LaRose Cancer Center at Day Kimball Hospital with a $108 check, funds raised by students as part of a charitable giving program at the school. That donation snowballed into a chain of charitable gestures that together have resulted in a touching and meaningful way for patients being treated for cancer at the hospital to mark an important milestone – their last treatment – and celebrate their survival.

After the donation was made the Cancer Center’s staff thought about how best to use the funds, wanting to implement the students’ charitable gesture in a tangible way. They ultimately decided on a truly meaningful use.

“In other cancer centers, when a patient completes their chemotherapy regimen they get to ring a ship’s bell that is stationed within the chemo room. We’d like to use these funds to purchase a ship’s bell of our own and have it installed in our chemotherapy infusion suite, so that our patients can have a physical and meaningful way to mark the completion of their chemotherapy treatment,” Linda Daniels, administrative coordinator for the hospital’s Oncology/Hematology Department, explained at the time.

The idea garnered so much support, however, that a bell didn’t even have to be purchased. Instead, it was donated by DKH Appeals and Events Manager Patricia Hedenberg, who was moved to contribute to the cause after hearing the story of the Thompson PTO’s donation.

DKH Director of Oncology Carolina Starr-Manning says that the staff was thrilled with Hedenberg’s donation as well, and next planned to use the donated funds to purchase a plaque on which to mount the bell. 

“But when I contacted Barbara Kenyon at New England Awards and Trophies about mounting the bell on a plaque, she and her husband insisted on donating the labor and additional materials,” Starr-Manning says. “And then one of our nurses, who would like to remain anonymous, wrote a poem to accompany the bell. And finally, the husband of one of our patients donated the sailor’s knot to attach to the bell.”

Starr-Manning says the entire staff at the Cancer Center has been moved by the outpouring of generosity that the initial donation sparked, as was the Thompson PTO President, Shannon Julian. 

“I just recently spoke to the President of the Thompson PTO to tell her this story and she thought it was wonderful that their effort drew in so much support,” Starr-Manning said. “And the students’ original donation will now be put toward ongoing upgrades to the facilities and amenities in the Cancer Center’s infusion rooms.”

Jean Mrozinski of Pomfret was the first patient to ring the bell, back in July before it was even mounted on the wall. Starr-Manning held the plaque out in her hands so that Mrozinski could ring the bell. 

“They gave me a party when I was done with chemo,” Mrozinski recalls of that last day of treatment. “I can’t tell you how wonderful everyone was to me there. From surgery, to chemotherapy, to my visiting nurse and the wound care center – everyone at Day Kimball was fantastic. But of course it was a joy to be done with the chemo.” 

Mrozinski says she was in tears as she rang the bell. 

“It’s the only time I cried, and it was because I was happy. I have not shed a tear over cancer. The doctors kept asking me, what is my secret, and I said a thankful heart…I just took every day one day at a time, and I have a lot of faith. Dr. Dhami [Mrozinski’s oncologist at the Cancer Center] told me that it was my attitude that saved me.”

Mrozinski does indeed have the attitude of a fighter and a survivor, and seems to personify the words inscribed on the bell’s plaque:

Lost at sea in a terrible storm,
such a horrible storm no one could have forewarned.
But I found my calmer waters,
and I can see the distant shore.
I have overcome, I have prevailed.
To ring this bell means I survived this war.

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