May 22, 2009 | Everything changes when you’re diagnosed with cancer.
For Sally Stenseng and her husband, Ron, those changes included traveling about 1,000 miles from their Florida home to Arkansas for long-term treatment at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
Finding a place to live during Stenseng’s treatment for lung cancer shouldn’t have been a problem, since the couple owns an RV. However, finding a campground that would allow them to stay for an extended period of time was a challenge.
“Since I was diagnosed in February, we’ve had to move to different locations within Maumelle Park and also spent one month at Burns Park in North Little Rock,” Stenseng said. The moves were due to park regulations limiting anyone from camping at one location for longer than two weeks.
Now, through a partnership between UAMS and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, patients such as Stenseng no longer have to worry about moving while undergoing long-term treatment for cancer or other conditions.
At a May 21 ceremony, 10 long-term medical stay campsites were dedicated at Maumelle Park in west Pulaski County. The park is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Our patients travel from all 50 states and around the world to receive the most advanced cancer treatment we can provide,” said Peter Emanuel, M.D., Cancer Institute director. “The last thing we want them worrying about is where they are going to stay during their treatment, which can sometimes last weeks or months. These campsites are a wonderful way for us to provide an affordable housing option for our patients who need it.”
Among those representing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the ceremony were Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp of Washington, D.C., chief of engineers; Col. Ed Jackson, Little Rock District engineer; Brig. Gen. Kendall Cox, the Southwest Division Commander; and Andrea Lewis, Little Rock District chief of operations.
“This partnership with UAMS allows us to better meet the needs of out-of-town patients who want to camp in Maumelle Park while undergoing extended medical treatments,” said Jackson. “It adds one more affordable option for some patients, and the fact that they can be in a restful park setting is a definite plus.”
An agreement between UAMS and the Corps was announced July 29, 2008, to establish the campsites for patients undergoing extended medical treatment. According to the Corps, more than 81 people in Maumelle Park during the previous year were seeking long-term stays related to medical care.
However, federal regulations limit the time that individuals can stay at the Corps-operated park, often requiring them to move before their treatment is complete.
UAMS provided $90,000 for the partnership to be led by the UAMS Medical Center, the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and the UAMS Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy. The Myeloma Institute, led by Bart Barlogie, M.D., Ph.D., is internationally recognized for its innovative research and treatment of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood’s plasma.
The Corps obtained seed money to be used for construction management, septic needs and daily utilities and maintenance. UAMS funds provided for the remaining camp site building needs.
Maumelle Park provides a unique setting for camping, boating, fishing or relaxing. The park offers eight group picnic shelters and 129 campsites with electricity and water hook ups. Other amenities include a boat launch ramp, playground, hot showers, public telephones and a dump station.