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BJC employee services same machine that provides his son’s cancer treatments

March 30, 2021
March 30, 2021

The Neil family

The Neil Family

Matt Neil, radiotherapy service engineer on the BJC clinical asset management team, never thought he would be servicing the same radiation treatment machine, a linear accelerator, that would provide treatment for his 6-year-old son. “My world was turned upside-down very quickly,” Neil says.

Last month, Neil’s son, Isaiah, underwent what was presumed to be routine surgery at CoxHealth in Springfield, Missouri, to have a polyp removed from his nasal cavity. During the procedure, the doctor discovered the growth was much more than a polyp and sent him by helicopter to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Within 24 hours, the Neils learned Isaiah had a cancerous tumor in his nasal cavity. He would have to immediately start chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Neil and his wife, Amber, live in Springfield, and he supports the radiation oncology department at CoxHealth, one of BJC’s Collaborative partners.

“This was earth-shattering,” says Neil, “but if I have to go through something like this, this is exactly where I want to be. I am blessed to be at Siteman Cancer Center and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.”

Isaiah would soon start six weeks of radiation treatment on the same machines that his dad maintains.

Because of COVID-19 and the rules where the family is staying, Neil can’t travel back to Springfield to work. “So he had to make the choice of staying with his wife and son in St. Louis or heading back to Springfield for the entire six weeks of his son’s radiation treatment,” says Daniel Stinson, BJC radiotherapy services manager.

Neil decided to stay with his wife and son in St. Louis. His manager and team members then stepped in to help make the arrangement work.

“We were able to move some of our engineering staff around to cover Matt’s role in Springfield, and we were also able to keep Matt working in St. Louis during his son’s radiation treatments,” Stinson says.

Neil has been servicing linear accelerator machines for more than 14 years and has been with BJC a little more than two years. “When I started working and repairing these machines, from the beginning, I told myself that I would repair them as if someone I loved was being treated on them — and now it is a reality.”

The manufacturer installs the machine and BJC’s clinical engineering team provides the maintenance. “We are on standby when patients are being treated,” says Neil, “in case anything happens and the machines need to be looked at. These are highly complex machines and we verify their safety, clean them and work all hours of the day to make sure they are in tiptop shape for our patients.”

Neil actually did maintenance one evening on the machine that his son was going to be treated on the next morning. “It is more real to me now than it ever has been, because I know that my little boy will be on that table,” says Neil. “Thankfully, my wife and I are able to take him to every treatment.”

Neil is grateful for the colleagues who have helped make that possible. “My whole team has supported me and are covering for me at CoxHealth while my son does 30 radiation treatments during this time,” says Neil. “I am so thankful that I am able to work and provide coverage to the St. Louis area while my son is being treated — and I can be with him. I see how blessed I am to work for BJC.

“My team has been absolutely incredible,” he adds. “I have been blown away by their generosity and I am so happy to be able to bring Isaiah to a world-class facility for his treatments.”

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