NEW YORK NURSE: April 2009
by Randi Hoffman
While everyone agrees that nurses are giving and unselfish, Pat Lama has gone above and beyond all expectations.
Currently working in the endoscopy unit at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, Lama has been a nurse for 31 years. And on Feb. 23, she donated her bone marrow to a complete stranger, a 31-year-old man with acute leukemia.
Lama was originally screened to be a bone marrow transplant donor for a woman she knew. “I went to a bone marrow drive for a particular person,” she said in a recent interview at her home in Kensington, Brooklyn, which she shares with her 15-year-old daughter, three dogs, and a cat. “She is the wife of a friend I’ve known for 20 years, a nice lady. She was diagnosed with lymphoma. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a match for her. She still hasn’t found someone.”
Then Lama was notified that she was a match for someone else in need. “When they first called me about the second person, I didn’t call them back right away,” she said. “But then I thought about the fact that he is 31 years old, and that the procedure has an 80% success rate. I thought, how could I not do it?”
Lama said she was nervous, but kept moving forward. The bone marrow donation process took seven hours. “First I had to take an injection of Neupogen® to stimulate white blood cells,” she explains. It was similar to a dialysis procedure, where fluid was being put into her body at the same time it was being extracted.
“The patient was infused with my bone marrow on the same day,” she continued. “At the same time that they were working on me, they were suppressing his immune system, so he had to get it ASAP. It’s been one month, and he is doing well. It will take three months to see if he is out of the woods.”
Lama doesn’t know the name of the man who received her bone marrow. They would both have to agree if they wanted to meet each other.
Brian Flynn, NYSNA nursing representative for New York Methodist Hospital, said, “Pat Lama was one of the first nurses I met when I started working at New York Methodist Hospital. She’s very well respected by her peers. She’s such a nice and kind person, I wasn’t at all surprised to hear she is doing what she is doing for this person. It is admirable.”
Lama has worked at New York Methodist since 1997 and is the NYSNA rep for the endoscopy unit. The bargaining unit is in the process of negotiating a contract, and every Wednesday nurses are asked to wear white scrub tops with the NYSNA logo. “I wear the white scrub top every Wednesday religiously,” said Lama. “And I’m looking forward to NYSNA Day on April 7.”