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Quinnipiac University nursing student Alexandra Ford is helping to sutport the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center’s oncology ward by planning the QTHON 10-hour dance marathon (which isn’t just dancing, she promises) on Saturday, March 23. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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While still a student at Quinnipiac Unniversity, Alexandra Ford has merged her studies in nursing with her job as a patient care assistant at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for a yearlong fundraising event to benefit the center’s oncology ward.
The fundraising campaign ends with QTHON, a 10-hour dance marathon open to the public, on Saturday, March 23 at the Quinnipiac University Athletic Center.
“A lot of people think that it’s dancing all night,” Alex says. “You don’t have to be a good dancer and you actually don’t have to dance.”
When the event starts, Alex says, everyone “stands up for the kids who can’t and from that moment on, the word ‘dance’ stands for the fact that we’re not going to sit for the next 10 hours.
“All the patients and families come from the hospital and they share a story every hour on the hour,” Alex says.
To raise money, the group is selling T-shirts, gaining corporate and private sponsors, and charging a $10 registration fee for the event. Registering on the website gives attendees the advantage of fundraising on their own. Those who bring in upwards of $100 get free food during the event.
She says the goal this year is to raise $323,000 to benefit the hospital by that date, up from $265,000 last year. So far, the organizers are more than halfway there, with most of their donations expected to come in during the week leading up to the big day.
Alex got involved during her freshman year when QTHON was introduced to her and the other nursing majors. She took a leadership position in the group the following year and, now a senior, serves as its marketing director.
She’s also working part time at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center on the pediatric oncology/hematology floor. She says a lot of people ask her how she can stand to work in such a sad department.
“I call it the happy floor because the kids that are there are being treated and looking for better tomorrows,” Alex says.
Over the summer, Alex says she was working with a young girl with cancer who asked her if she would be cancer free when she got to be Alex’s age.
“That’s why me and the rest of my team really do what we do is to give her the answer, ‘Yes, you will be healthy one day,’” she says.
Alex’s interest in nursing in general began as the logical conclusion of skills and interests she picked up at North Haven High School.
“I was the captain of the soccer and track teams so I really enjoyed being a leader, helping others, and meeting the needs of my team,” she says.
That focus plus an interest in biology and a love for working with kids put her on track for a pediatric nursing career.
“Nursing has so many different fields…and I like to always be on the move and trying new things,” she says.
After an eight week internship at the hospital, Alex got the job she has now and, after graduation, expects a full time position as a registered nurse at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
“I’m there all the time, like 24 hours a week in between classes,” she says. “It kind of comes full circle with what I do for QTHON.”
Currently, Alex is tasked with managing patients’ emotional needs and making sure they’re up and moving around.
“A lot of oncology kids kind of get into a rut and their parents are in the same rut at the same time,” Alex says.
On her floor of the children’s hospital, Alex says, you have as many family members as patients in the room, so she needs to offer family oriented care. That’s something, she says, she learned from personal experience.
“My great-grandma was really sick my sophomore year,” Alex says. “I was with her in all of her doctor’s appointments…She was misdiagnosed with a psychiatric disorder when she really had dementia.
“I saw the negative side of healthcare and how scary it can be when you don’t have the answers and people aren’t tending to the family’s questions and the family’s needs,” she says.
Knowing what she did about her own experience as the family of a patient, Alex says she learned what she would want to hear if she was in the patients’ families’ position.
“I wanted the ability to continue that chain reaction of positive nursing care that I experience with my great-grandmother,” she says.
QTHON runs from 2 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, March 23 in the Quinnipiac University Athletic Center, 275 Mt. Carmel Avenue, Hamden. For more information or to donate, visit events.dancemarathon.com.
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