SALT LAKE CITY — Living with cancer is not only physically demanding but also emotionally draining, often leaving patients in isolation. A new, creative program helped one young father make the hospital his temporary home.
Karl Dahle, 31, treasures the time he has with his wife and two daughters. "The last year and a half has been pretty hard," he said.
Six years ago, Dahle was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He went into remission, but, last year, it came back.
“There’s a lot of days that I want to play with my daughters, but I run out of energy,” he said.
After a year of chemotherapy, Dahle spent most of November alone in the hospital in Salt Lake City for a bone marrow transplant, while his wife and daughters stayed in Idaho.
“I didn’t realize how hard it would be being away from my family,” he said.
Luckily, the treatment went well, but, after Dahle finished his doctor visits in the mornings, he didn’t have much to do in the afternoons. “I mean, there is only so much TV you can watch before you’re just like, ‘Ugh!’” he described.
Dahle credits the Joy and Wellness program at LDS Hospital for making a big difference in his stay since life in the hospital can often be boring.
The program includes a variety of activities like painting, crocheting, yoga, music, and mini-golf designed to help patients keep both their body and mind active throughout their treatment.
Intermountain Healthcare’s Charlene Clayton, a recreational therapist at LDS Hospital, said the program allows patients to engage with others who have similar diagnoses. Family members of patients are also invited to join, giving them an opportunity to connect with fellow caretakers.
Clayton said the program brings patients together outside of their hospital rooms.
Dahle said it was a welcomed break from monotonous conversations about his diagnoses. “It was a highlight of my week,” he said. “It was a time to not talk about all the crap they’re both going through — just enjoy each other’s company.”
Regardless of his morning schedule with doctors, Dahle made it a priority to be there for the activities. “I told the nurses, ‘Get this done because I’ve got that going on,’” he explained. Dahle learned to crochet and painted keepsakes for his daughters.
Clayton said she tries to create a therapeutic environment through recreation.
“People getting together talking and laughing and having a good time — and talking about things other than their diagnosis,” she said.
Clayton also said the program helps patients develop coping skills to help them get through their treatment.
Today, Dahle is once again in remission and is anxious to spend time with his wife and little girls at home in Ashton, Idaho.
The Joy and Wellness program was funded by an anonymous donor who offered an endowment of $750,000. This grateful donor also spent five months in inpatient treatment at LDS Hospital and wanted to help other patients have an enjoyable experience in the hospital.
A second donor, Lynette Loveland, also gave $50,000 towards the program after her husband James passed away from leukemia following nine months of treatment.
Currently, Clayton said they hold the program twice a week, but through future donations, hope to host activities every day.