Cancer Care by the Sea

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media , August 13, 2012
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This article appears in the August 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Melinda Mayton, RN, MSN, has a different method for treating pediatric cancer, and it starts with the whole family. Mayton, 47, of Marietta, Ga., is a part-time nurse in the emergency department at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and the full-time founder and CEO of Blue Skies Ministries. This faith-based charity helps children with cancer and their families escape the stress of pediatric cancer, with an all-expenses-paid, weeklong family beach trip. Multiple times a year, Mayton and a staff of 40 volunteers that includes doctors and nurses take 12 to 14 families to Florida. Mayton, who has worked at the bedside for nearly 25 years, has been taking families to the beach for more than a decade, and founded Blue Skies three years ago.

On families with sick children: I saw all these improvements and advances in medicine and healthcare, but what I never really saw change was what was happening to that family. You would see it over time that those families were just sort of stretched and pulled apart. It was the more we saw the patients, the worse the families were.

On treating the whole family: For some families, they're just tired physically, you know, and they love the retreat because we wash their clothes, turn down their beds at night, cook their meals, and clean up after them—you're taking care of lots of physical needs. For others, they're just sad and tired and weary and lonely, and we have a program where we have a lot of fun, family-centered activities where they get to laugh and they just get to have a vacation.

On selecting the setting: When I go to the beach, it rejuvenates me. At the beach I really feel like I connect with God like I can't in other places. So I thought, wouldn't it be great to allow these families that? Take them down to the beach and away from home and the city and cell phones … unplug from life and enjoy each other.

This article appears in the August 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Reprint HLR0812-10

Chelsea Rice is an associate editor for HealthLeaders Media.




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