GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital officially dedicated the Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program in a brief ceremony on Tuesday, April 12. Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford, was in attendance.
The Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program, which provides high-quality, cost-effective rehabilitative care specifically for cancer patients, was announced by Ford Bales at groundbreaking ceremonies for Mary Free Bed’s $66.4 million expansion and renovation project on April 9, 2013.
A wall display commemorating the cutting-edge initiative features both Betty Ford and her mother, Hortense Neahr Bloomer, who were strong supporters of Mary Free Bed. Hortense Bloomer served as president of the Mary Free Bed Guild, which governs the hospital, from 1931 to 1932; Betty Ford was a founding member of the Junior Guild in 1935. Susan Ford Bales is an honorary member of the guild.
The First Lady revolutionized how people view cancer after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974, using it as an opportunity to raise awareness and encourage early detection and treatment.
During the groundbreaking, Bales said rehabilitation therapy following treatment played a significant factor in her mother’s recovery.
“It wasn’t just the skill of her physician that allowed Betty Ford to conquer breast cancer,” Bales said. “It was that skill and the subsequent rehabilitation that made her triumph over breast cancer complete.”
The Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program, the first designated and comprehensive cancer rehabilitation program in West Michigan, is a pioneering step for this nationally emerging sub-specialty. The program, which includes customized inpatient, outpatient and home or community programs, helps patients achieve maximum cognitive, emotional and physical functioning while improving quality of life. That is the same goal Mary Free Bed has for all of its patients.
Since the 2013 inception of the Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program, more than 430 cancer survivors have been admitted for inpatient rehabilitation. The outpatient program also has seen a significant increase in services provided to cancer survivors being treated for symptoms related to side effects of their cancer treatments and/or the cancer itself.
The program is led by Mary Free Bed Chief of Staff Dr. Christian VandenBerg and administered by Lori Pearl-Kraus.
The inaugural Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Conference scheduled May 6 in Grand Rapids is expected to draw healthcare professionals from all over the country.