- Associated Press - Monday, November 7, 2016

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) - The row of brand-new infusion bays overlooking Long Island Sound from the top of Norwalk Hospital are eerily peaceful, awaiting their first patients.

One detail catches Andrew Whittingham’s eye. He walks over and slides an opaque window in the divider separating one bay from another.

“I specifically asked for the window to be able to open like this,” Whittingham said. “My mother liked it one way and my father liked another. They would like this.”

The booths, where patients will receive chemotherapy treatment, are just one part of the new 35,000-square-foot expansion that makes up the new C. Anthony and Jean Whittingham Cancer Center, named for Andrew’s parents. More than 400 people gathered Saturday night for the official unveiling of the new center, which will be fully up and running around the beginning of 2017. The radiation wing is already treating patients with new equipment and resources.

Anthony Whittingham made the first donation of $1.5 million in 1997 in honor of his mother, who died of ovarian cancer when he was a child. Norwalk Hospital opened the original 19,000-square-foot C. Anthony and Jean Whittingham Cancer Center in 1997, and in 2001 the C. Anthony and Jean Whittingham Pavilion for Specialty Care opened at Stamford Hospital. The family has given a number of gifts since then, totaling $4.5 million.

Andrew Whittingham, a longtime Stamford resident, joined Norwalk Hospital’s board of directors just days after his father died from cancer in 2009, hoping to continue his father’s legacy of giving to the hospital and the community. He is now vice chairman of hospital’s board of trustees and board of directors. Anthony and Jean Whittingham were both treated for their own cancers at Norwalk Hospital before they died.

“I had never heard the story, he had never spoken about his mother or that she suffered until he spoke at the first dedication,” Andrew Whittingham said. “So when we heard they were planning this expansion the rest of the family and I agreed we had to be involved. It was so important to them.”

The new center is on the opposite side of the hospital as the original, nearly doubling the size of the old space and adding a variety of new treatment options, state-of-the-art equipment, patient amenities and research facilities.

The new cancer center is part of the McGraw Center expansion, a $125 million, 95,000-square-foot project that includes new emergency facilities, digestive disease facilities and more.

Michael Daglio, Norwalk Hospital president, said the new cancer center is contemporary, patient focused and state-of-the-art in terms of providing the most current and innovative treatments.

With top-of-the line cancer centers along the Gold Coast from Greenwich to Bridgeport, the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven and multiple world famous cancer centers in New York City, the region has no shortage of cancer care. But Daglio said the compassion, personal attention and community focus are what set the Whittingham center apart.

“We have excellent expertise from a physician standpoint,” Daglio said. “And the compassion we have from our staff I would put up against anyone’s. This is really the final piece of a comprehensive patient experience. All of the other components have been in place for a long time. We are competitive to any center in the region because of that as well.”

The new cancer center includes an outdoor healing garden for patients, families and caregivers, contemporary consultation rooms and patient space with media and refreshments, two private infusion suites, 18 infusion bays with views of Long Island Sound, a dedicated 4-D CT simulator and two cutting edge linear accelerators. The facility also includes spacious areas for patient support services and the hospital’s clinical trials and collaborative research with cancer research centers.

Thomas Rutherford, physician director of cancer services for the Western Connecticut Health Network, said the new center will provide treatment not only for the patient, but for their family members, who are coping with the disease as well.

“Cancer affects not only the patient but the entire family and you need to have that program have the ability to take care of the entire family, and that’s an important point that we focus on,” Rutherford said. “As you develop a new program or a new center, everybody always brings the state of the art. It pulls the entire network to make sure we’re delivering state of the art care to the patient and the entire family.”

Rutherford added that family’s like the Whittinghams, who not only provide significant financial support, but are also actively involved in planning and community outreach of the hospital, are what make the program successful.

“The community in Norwalk, those who receive care and those who support the Norwalk Hospital, this community is really involved on a personal level more than anywhere else I’ve ever seen,” Rutherford said. “When you look at what does this have, it has a commitment from the community, the businesses of the community, the people of the community, the doctors connected back into the community at a much greater level than anywhere else I’ve ever been. This family at Norwalk is going to take care of their family.”


Online: https://bit.ly/2fachOg


Information from: The Hour, https://www.thehour.com

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