Carla Conarty is a social worker who works closely with Bringing Hope Home through her role in the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) at the Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute in Allentown, PA. Throughout the past four years, Carla has referred over 80 local Families with cancer to our Light of Hope Family Grant Program and holiday Adopt-A-Family Program. Carla took some time to share a bit about herself, her role at LVHN, and her experience working with Bringing Hope Home.
From a young age, Carla knew that she fit into the niche of a “helper” to those around her. Whether assisting her grandparents or volunteering at local hospitals and nursing homes, Carla enjoyed interacting with and providing assistance to older individuals. This passion for the senior population led her to pursue a career in healthcare social work, which allowed her to work in nursing homes and hospitals following her graduation from Kutztown University in 1991.
However, her career shifted when Lehigh Valley Health Network hired her four years ago to work as a social worker in Cancer Support Services at the Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute. Regarding this transition, Carla comments, “Working in oncology, it became apparent early on how much a cancer diagnosis impacts a person. It not only affects someone physically, but mentally, emotionally, and often financially.” As patients experience the emotional turmoil of cancer diagnoses and treatments, Carla works tirelessly to provide resources to help alleviate some of the stress experienced by these individuals receiving care at LVHN Cancer Institute.
From both a professional and personal perspective, Carla has witnessed the important role that financial assistance can play in easing some of the burden that patients endure throughout their journeys with cancer. When her best friend, Tina, was diagnosed with colon cancer, Carla experienced a further deepening to her already complex understanding of the challenges faced by her patients. Carla comments, “Having someone close to me diagnosed with cancer, I witnessed on a daily basis the importance of patients having emotional support, a strong support system, and resources to turn to. My best friend continued to work throughout treatment, even on days when she was very, very sick because she was worried about her family and her bills.”
Just like Carla’s friend, many individuals with cancer struggle to find the financial assistance they need. Instead of focusing solely on their treatment and their health, these individuals find themselves feeling overwhelmed by a myriad of medical, and household bills. Sometimes, financial assistance means that a Family will not have to choose between paying bills and buying food. Other times, help with utilities allows patients and their Families to focus on paying steep medical expenses. In many cases, knowing that rent is paid for the month allows an individual to take needed time off from work to rest and recuperate throughout treatment. As Carla states, “I feel really blessed to have a reliable resource like BHH available for the individuals and families I work with.”
Throughout the pandemic, Carla and her patients faced the challenge of suspended resources. Many transportation services could not operate, and many nonprofits struggled to implement effective methods of socially-distanced fundraising. However, Carla identifies BHH as one of the organizations that remained accessible to patients. Throughout the years of partnership, and particularly during the past year of global uncertainty, Carla describes the relationship between LVHN and BHH as “beyond compare.” As Carla and her coworker, Courtney, work to provide as many resources as possible to their patients, they both value the simplicity and accessibility of the BHH Light of Hope Family Grant application process. In turn, the BHH Team relies on the integral work done by Carla and Courtney to connect BHH with Families from LVHN.
For BHH, partnerships such as the one between BHH and LVHN provide a strong network of support and collaboration. Without Carla, this integral connection would not exist. BHH is so thankful for the everyday work done by Carla and her team to create a bridge between individuals in need and the resources we can provide. As an organization, BHH is indebted to Carla for her contributions to creating and maintaining the partnership between BHH and LVHN. As a group of individuals, the BHH Team is so grateful to consider Carla and Courtney part of the extended BHH Family at LVHN.