Breast cancer patient's dying wish to upgrade Lawrence oncology center coming true

Jamie Pursley’s wish is coming true.

Three weeks before she died of breast cancer on March 29, the 35-year-old Lawrence resident looked her closest friends in the eyes and told them that she wanted to renovate the infusion rooms at Lawrence Memorial Hospital's Oncology Center where she had spent countless hours receiving treatment.

She wanted all 15 rooms to have a peaceful, spa-like feel with comfortable chairs and other amenities, especially for the guests.

“She was just always thinking of other people and her big thing was to really get new guest side seats for the friends and family who would come to visit, which was unbelievable that she was thinking of others while she was facing the last few weeks of life,” said Aimee Jackson, one of Jamie’s close friends and a sorority sister at Kansas State University.

On Aug. 14, Jackson and Kelli Alldredge, another one of Jamie’s friends, launched a fundraiser and Jamie’s Wish Foundation. Their goal was to raise the $100,000 needed to make Jamie’s wish come true. They figured it would take about a year, especially in a difficult economy.

But not Lawrence businessman Miles Schnaer, who gave Jamie’s Wish Foundation its first donation and helped in any way he could. He said they had a specific goal and they were passionate about reaching it.

“These girls just engulfed everybody that they came in contact with to be able to do something,” he said. “It was $5 here and a couple of bucks stuffed in a can at a game there.”

They did some major fundraising at the Kansas State University and Kansas University football game Oct. 22 because Jamie, who was originally from Topeka, was a diehard K-State fan who had fallen in love with the Lawrence community. She, her husband Aaron, and their young daughter Kayden, moved to Lawrence in February 2010 from Kentucky to be closer to home. Jamie had been battling cancer for about four years and it had metastasized to her bones.

“She never complained and I felt like she really never had a bad day,” Jackson said. “I think she internalized it, but never said ‘Why me?’ and dealt with the cards that she was given.”

Once KU and K-State fans heard about the cause, they put their rivalry aside and came out in full support. Former KU wide receiver Harrison Hill and former K-State quarterback Jonathan Beasley became heavily involved in the project. Then, a national sports TV station aired Jamie’s story and people took to the cause like wildfire.

Jackson said they received small and big donations and even letters from people across the country and around the world, including Italy, Russia and London.

“It’s just been an overwhelming response of amazing people,” she said.

So far, they’ve raised $116,000 and exceeded their expectations. The extra money is going to allow them to be able to upgrade countertops and flooring which wasn’t in the original plan. If they raise more, they would like to get iPads or iPods and docking stations for every room so patients and families have something to help bide their time. Currently, there is one laptop computer for the entire center.

The LMH Oncology Center serves about 600 new patients each year and administers about 18,000 treatments. Those treatments can be up to eight hours long.

Dr. Sherri Soule, who was Jamie’s oncologist, said she was a joy to be around and there often was laughter coming from her room. Thanks to Jamie, she said, her patients and their guests are going to have some of the best infusion rooms in the country.

“It has just been wonderful and really touching,” she said.

On Friday, Alldredge, Jackson, Schnaer and a couple of other friends visited LMH’s oncology center to try out two infusion chairs they are thinking of ordering. The chairs are in the waiting room where staff, visitors and patients can try them out as well and vote on their favorite.

Their hope is to have the renovation work done and a ribbon-cutting ceremony near the first anniversary of their friend’s death.

“I think she would just be so thrilled and so happy, and I just love that she was the catalyst for this idea,” Jackson said.

HOW TO HELP

Jamie Pursley’s dying wish was to renovate all 15 infusion rooms at Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s Oncology Center, where she received treatments. Her close friends created Jamie’s Wish Foundation to make her wish a reality.

They reached their goal of raising $100,000 in November, but now are using extra donations to do even more with the rooms, like upgrade flooring and countertops. They would like to raise enough money for each room to have an iPad or iPod and a docking station. Currently, there is one laptop computer for the entire center.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Jamie’s Wish Foundation:

• Visit the LMH Endowment Association’s website at lmhendowment.org/donate/jamies-wish.

• Make a check payable to: Jamie’s Wish — LMHEA, in care of Kathy Clausing-Willis, 325 Maine St., Lawrence, KS 66044.

To learn more about Jamie’s story visit jamieswish.org.

By Karrey Britt

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