Decatur cancer patient part of growing trend of at-home health care

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on May 9, 2013 at 2:03 PM

DECATUR — Six-month-old baby Valerie is her daddy's reason to live.

"Makes me want to keep fighting and not give up," Junior Fernandez said. "Just keep going forward and that's it."

Last year, bone cancer was discovered on the 19-year-old's right knee. A few months ago, that cancer spread to his lungs.

Since then, Fernandez has spent a solid week of every month in the hospital, undergoing a grueling regimen of 24/7 chemotherapy.

But now, chemo takes place at the kitchen table.

At-home health care is a growing trend.

Terminally ill patients used to be the only ones sent home with medical care. But the same concept is being applied to help other patients get better.

"It's a win-win for everyone," said Cook Children's Home Health president Mike Simmons. "The patient's in-home. It's cheaper for the hospital to get them out of the inpatient's side as quick as they possibly can. And it's cheaper for the insurers to put them at home."

Home health care services can provide everything from medicine to machines to manpower, without the expensive overhead of a hospital setting.

"If he were in the hospital, he'd be hooked up to an IV pole, IV bags, he'd be on a floor, and he wouldn't be able to leave. He would be in his room," SAID Home Health nurse Karen McMinn. "He would kind of be in social isolation from other people, to try to keep him from getting an infection."

A chemotherapy infusion drip that used to take one week in the hospital is now worn in a backpack, so Fernandez can receive treatment over the course of two weeks.

That slow dosage drip results in fewer side effects, and a nurse checks in on him weekly.

Fernandez said he rests better at home and feels stronger. And while his wife could visit him in the hospital, his daughter could not.

"I felt sick in the hospital," he said. "Here, I don't."

And here, in the comfort of his own living room, Fernandez never misses a precious moment or milestone with a daughter who is the very best medicine.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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