Registered nurses know so much about care that when they receive it, they can be considered true experts on its quality, much like chefs who review restaurants.
That’s the case with Judy Sampson, a Sioux Falls resident who received care at Avera Cancer Institute. Both Judy, and her husband, Harold, are cancer survivors, grateful for the care they received from Addison R. Tolentino, MD, and Amy Krie, MD, respectively.
Sampson worked in Worthington, Minn., for many years as both a nurse and respiratory technician. Her expertise in both fields earned her admiration from her coworkers and patients. When she experienced the 180-degree change in perspective on health care, going from provider to patient, she said she was glad it was with the team at Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls.
“When I retired, my husband and I moved to Sioux Falls, in part for health care convenience, and both of us are so grateful we chose Avera physicians. First for my husband, and then for me, it seemed a natural thing to do,” Sampson said. “The overall sense of care at Avera was different. It was really eye-opening.”
Through her husband’s care, then her own, Sampson developed a distinct and intense sense of appreciation. It was a feeling that moved her to creativity, because a note of thanks, even a letter explaining how she felt for the care she received, seemed incomplete.
Sampson’s not only a talented retired health care professional, she’s also quite an adept seamstress and quilt maker. Inspiration from the flowing waters near the entrance of the Prairie Center, along with her feelings, led her to create two appliqué quilts, one for each of the physicians, made with the hope that many people would see them and feel the depth of the care she received at Avera.
“My husband and I were just so impressed with Dr. Tolentino, and as an RN, I was just amazed at how thorough and caring he truly was for Harold,” she said. “He actually requested that my husband come back to see him – which was amazing to me. He made us feel like the most important people in the world. Not just when we visited him, but every time we returned for a treatment, there was an environment of caring that exuded that feeling.”
That feeling is what led to the design on her quilts. She found imagery that personified the ideals embodied in the Avera mission: faith, hope and love. Sampson scoured pattern books and hunted for the images that would allow her to visually impart the depth of her admiration she had for those who cared for her husband, and later, for her.
“I wanted to make this for him (Dr. Tolentino) and I was compulsively buying material, building upon my inspiration as I went through the process,” she said. “Then I received my diagnosis.”
In March 2014, Judy Sampson was diagnosed with breast cancer and naturally chose an Avera physician. Dr. Amie Krie served in that position and Sampson said she wasn’t sure at first if the level of care she knew from Harold’s journey would again be matched. But it was.
“I’ve never been a person prone to anger, but after my diagnosis, I was mad,” she said. “I know that anger came out in my visits to the Prairie Center. I was short with people, but day-in, day-out, everyone I worked with was patient. They were kind. That response to me, even on those days when I was very angry, that made me reflect, and while it took time, I realized what was at the root of my feelings.”
Sampson said her years providing care, both for patients as an RN and for those with respiratory ailments as a technician, had given her an outlook. Cancer changed that outlook. “I found out why I was so angry in time, but it took time, and plenty of prayer, to come to the root,” she said. “I was so mad because cancer took control from me. That lost control led me to be short with my doctor, with nurses – with nearly everyone.”
During that surly period, Sampson said she was amazed, because those who helped her through her cancer journey never lost respect or “returned the favor.”
“No one – across the board – no one ever responded in kind. They just were patient, cheerful and gave us both so much hope,” she said. “Every day I just kept thinking about how somebody is helping you, with so much caring. The level of care was remarkable, and I wasn’t an easy person to give that care to. Both physically with my care and on a spiritual level, Avera changed my life.”
Sampson, now a survivor, realized one quilt for Dr. Tolentino wasn’t enough. She made a second, and donated them both to the Avera Cancer Institute so that they might inspire others and visually display not only her gracious gratitude, but hopefully convey what her care team provided her.
“To me, the creation of the project was part of my journey. It came together as I realized how blessed I was,” she said. “The team at Avera embodies faith, hope and love,” she said. “I felt safe there. I still do. I still regret being unfriendly when I was mad, and I know how challenging that can be. I’ve cared for patients who were feeling the same. Now I know how that vulnerability hits you in so many ways.”
Sampson added her own creative flourishes to the quilts, but made every stitch in the first 18 hours of work with a distinct reflection on the path she followed through her husband’s care and her own.
“My husband and I, neither of us are really emotional people,” she said. “So I turned to creativity in hopes of sharing my genuine appreciation for everyone who made us feel so confident, content and cared-for during our time.”
Sampson continues to visit the Prairie Center as a patient of Sally Williams, DO. She receives acupuncture for relief from hot flashes and said she was certainly part of the group that was skeptical about this alternative approach to treating them.
“Dr. Williams is just another example of Avera’s quality, and she took me from skeptic to believer in a short time,” Sampson said. “Anyone who has had hot flashes knows how unpleasant they can be, and how relief is elusive. Now, through her help, I am finding acupuncture can reduce the severity and frequency of the flashes. It’s made a night-and-day difference for me.”
The Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine clinic where this treatment occurs uses acupuncture to treat a wide range of health problems. It’s another success in Sampson’s eyes. “I used to have flashes every half-hour and didn’t get much rest,” she said. “Now when I have them, I can return to sleep, and I credit Dr. Williams’ approach.”
She also said that beyond the relief, she feels the same sense of gratitude and kindness with Dr. Williams she experienced with her husband’s care along with her own cancer journey. “It has let me ‘be me’ again in so many ways, and Dr. Williams is so kind and thorough,” Sampson said. “I just can’t say enough about the positive feelings I’ve received for so many years from Avera’s team. That’s why I shared my gifts and I hope others will see the quilts and take away just a tiny sense of why this place is remarkable to me and my family.”