Because of You

Susan B. Adams Memorial Endowment Fund

Susan Adams was a quiet person who loved cats, wine, and books, yet she was also a no nonsense woman with spirit, gumption and drive. She was a compassionate advocate for the underserved, a trusted friend, and a dedicated Mount Carmel associate for 36 years.

As an employee of the Radiation Oncology department, Sue dedicated her professional life at Mount Carmel West to her calling until her death in December 2011. A devout employee, her heart and soul were with her patients and colleagues, all the time. Her husband Dennis recalled that on bad weather days she would take extra clothing with her to work, just in case some of her staff were unable to make it in. That way she could just spend the night to be sure all of her patients could be seen and taken care of the next day.

Dennis’ job sends him to some of the most beautiful parts of America, and he often tried to take Sue with him, but she would rarely go. Her priority was to be at work with her patients. It was her work that propelled her life and gave her purpose and meaning. Sue always liked what Mount Carmel West stood for, and believed in the hospital’s mission to serve the community and the people that live there.

Upon Sue’s passing, Dennis chose the Mount Carmel Foundation as the organization to receive donations in her memory. Expecting that at most a couple thousand dollars would be raised, he was amazed when more than $13,000 was generously donated by many friends, family members, former patients and Sue’s colleagues. Seeing this tremendous outpouring of support, Dennis knew he wanted to make these incredible gifts a legacy to his beloved wife.

Being touched by the conviction of Sue’s loved ones and friends, and Sue’s dedication to patient care, Dennis wanted to do something that would benefit the department’s patients while helping the staff better serve those in need on a daily basis. In doing so, he wanted to be sure Sue’s beliefs could live on. ”My desire to deepen Sue’s legacy was not about me and my love for Sue, but about her conviction to the hospital,” he said. ”That’s the most important thing. And that will never go away.”

From those beliefs and spirit of gratitude, The Susan B. Adams Radiation Oncology Memorial Endowment Fund was born in 2012.

The fund supports the greatest needs of the Radiation Oncology departments located at Mount Carmel West, St. Ann’s and The Zangmeister Cancer Center. Kathy Grassman, System Director of Radiation Oncology — and Sue’s boss at Mount Carmel West — appreciates the Endowment because it allows her three departments to provide little “extra touches of nicety” to cancer patients. “These extra touches provide additional comfort for patients during what is often an emotional and very stressful time in their lives.”

The first project, which involved remodeling the gowned patient waiting area at West, was a project that Dennis knew Sue would have loved. “Sue always felt bad that patients had to wait in a cold, unwelcoming waiting room, and use lockers that didn’t lock,” he noted. “She wanted her patients, who were already having such a hard time, to sit in a warm and comfortable environment as they awaited their treatments. If something could improve patient care, Sue wanted to make it happen.”

Additional projects have included nurse education events and blanket warmers. Grassman says that the plan this year is to provide crushed ice machines on two of the units. “Patients undergoing cancer treatment often experience side effects as a result of the chemotherapy and radiation therapy,” she said. ”These extra touches help provide comfort. Crushed ice is frequently desired by patients to help them deal with mouth dryness and nausea.”

In the past three years, the endowment’s principal has grown to over $150,000, with over $40,000 in donations to the fund last year alone. Sue’s legacy continues through the endowment and an annual fundraiser — a brunch and silent auction — hosted by Dennis. But her legacy and her heart continue to touch people in other ways, too. “Sue really cared about people,” he added. “When I met her, I was just a businessman. Now I’m a businessman who cares. She gave me a heart and a purpose.”

The Mount Carmel Foundation is truly grateful for Dennis’ leadership not only as a generous donor, but also as an engaged board member and trusted friend. And through Dennis’ sharing of his late wife’s passion, and the contributions of many to continue her legacy, her heart and soul truly live on. For that, our community is truly blessed.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 Inspire Newsletter.