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Peeking through the Window

Fear, worry, anxiety, hope. Kayla Bates, PharmD, clinical pharmacist generalist at Eastern Maine Medical Center, remembers the roller coaster of emotions she felt 12 years ago when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Kayla resolved to be there for her mother every step of the way, including going to chemotherapy appointments. She didn’t know at the time that those appointments would shape a decision that benefits Eastern Maine Medical Center patients today.

DSC_0148.JPGAs a high school junior, Kayla struggled to choose between pursuing a career in physical therapy or veterinary medicine. At her mother’s chemotherapy appointments, she became intrigued by the window where the chemotherapy medication came from. “I wondered what was on the other side,” she says. “I became more curious and asked questions of the staff.” Kayla soon learned that the oncology pharmacy was behind the window, and before long, her career decision became clear: she wanted to become a pharmacist.

Her choice to pursue a career in pharmacy affects patients every day, including a leukemia patient who recently couldn’t get the medication she needed to prolong her life. Upon learning about the patient’s situation, Matt Marston, PharmD, BCPS, BCOP, senior manager of Clinical Pharmacy Services at Miller Drug, reached out to Kayla for help. In his work with Miller Specialty Pharmacy, Matt is part of a six-person team that provides care coordination for patients who take high-cost medications or oral chemotherapy of any kind.

“This patient had been in the hospital for 14 days. Before she was discharged, arrangements were made for a national mail order pharmacy to deliver the medication to her home,” says Matt. “Despite working on it for a week and being told by the company that it would be delivered, it never came. The physician and patient resigned to the fact that the medication would not be available.”

Understanding that the patient’s life could be shortened by not taking the medication, Matt immediately began to arrange for doses of the medication to be packaged up from the Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Inpatient Pharmacy. He called the patient to explain his plan to get her the medication she needed until the mail order pills arrived. Knowing that Kayla lived near the patient–about an hour north of Bangor–Matt asked if she could deliver the medication.

With her mother’s cancer journey in mind, Kayla jumped at the chance to do something that could potentially add days to the leukemia patient’s life. She drove the medication directly to the patient’s home and spent time counseling her.

“I wanted to help out as much as I could,” says Kayla. “She was very thankful, as she didn’t think she would be able to get her medication. Helping this patient get her life-prolonging medication was fulfilling for me.”

After three years in the Inpatient Pharmacy, Kayla recently began working in the Intensive Care Unit. She participates in multidisciplinary rounds; answers medication questions for nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists; and makes sure patients receive the right medication doses. Eastern Maine Medical Center’s most seriously ill patients benefit from her knowledge, skill, and passion, and it’s all because of her curiosity and a decision to find out what was through the window.

Do you know someone who has gone above and beyond for our patients or a coworker? Share the story by e-mailing yourstory@emhs.org.