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FDA-approved drug for ALS offered at Baystate Medical Center

October 27, 2019

There is a unique, specialized unit at Baystate Medical Center that focuses on patients who need infusion therapy. Patients often spend several days in a row in Baystate’s infusion chairs, which means they can form a special bond with caregivers and each other.

Infusion therapy involves delivering medicine directly into the veins using a needle or catheter. Baystate’s infusion suite, newly located in the Medical Office Building on 2 Medical Center Drive in Springfield, has 14 bays and a team which includes nurses highly skilled to administer complex IV therapies.

Our team treats many conditions using specialty infusion therapies, including congestive heart failure, Crohn’s Disease, hemophilia, immune deficiencies, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and more.

ALS is a progressive nervous system disease with no present cure that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first new drug specifically for ALS in 22 years. The drug, Radicava, has shown promise in slowing the progression of ALS and possibly increasing patients’ life expectancy. After the drug was FDA-approved, Baystate began to offer Radicava through the infusion suite at Baystate Medical Center. Radicava is given as an injection into a vein

Two patients, Roxane “Roxy” Baillargeon and Bruce Bergquist, are the first patients to receive Radicava at Baystate Medical Center. The infusion takes one hour to deliver medicine through two different infusion bags. Both Roxy and Bruce receive infusions for 10 days in a 14 day period, followed by 14 days drug free.

Roxy’s Experience

Roxaneinfusionsquare“When you come here, you feel like you’re coming home,” explains 46-year-old Springfield resident Roxy about the feeling she gets in the infusion suite. She admits that before her first appointment in 2017, she was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. She wondered how big the needle would be. Would she be surrounded by machines? Would she feel overwhelmed? Once in the suite, she was quickly put at ease.

“I was relieved when I found it to be pain free,” says Roxy, who gets her infusions through a port in her chest. “The staff is wonderful. The nurses, CNAs, PCTs, everyone makes me feel at home when I am here and they answer all my questions.”

“Roxy has always come into the infusion suite with a very optimistic attitude, focusing on the positives,” says Monica Cuccovia, RN, BSN. “She and her outgoing daughter Stefany don't let ALS define her.” Roxy says she enjoys going for drives, shopping and going to hiking areas with her daughter. Monica says “Roxy continues her daily life, continues to live, and continues to educate and support.”

Bruce’s Experience

Smiles 20190829  Observation _ Infusion Ribbon Cutting 5563squareBrockton native and Chicopee resident Bruce started coming to the infusion suite in 2017 and is usually accompanied by his son Kyle. “Bruce is amazing,” says Monica of her 65-year-old patient. “He knows all of the infusion staff and puts a smile on all our faces.” Monica says Bruce has made many friends in the infusion suite and they have patients who request to sit next to him to catch up just like old friends.

Bruce says along with the medicine and treatment he receives in the infusion suite, he gets the important element of social interaction. “I like when it’s quiet and I get to chat with the staff and find out what is going on in their lives,” says Bruce.

Bruce has three children and loves to spend time with his family and his three-year-old grandson Chase who he races from his power wheelchair. He likes to read, watch Boston sports, and go out to eat and for a ride with his friends. “I stay positive each day,” Bruce says. “I feel that even though my body is getting weaker, my spirit is getting stronger. Every morning when I wake up the flowers look brighter and the sky is bluer.”

“It’s an honor to care for Roxy and Bruce and to administer the medication to them which works to slow the progression of ALS and allows them time with the people and activities they love,” says Monica. “They are such kind-hearted and loving people and they are in our hearts as members of our family.”