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Comfort Food

Treating patients beyond their medical needs

January 11, 2011
By Fritz Busch Staff Writer

NEW ULM - For four years now, some good, old-fashioned home cooking and socializing have gone a long way to make New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) infusion and oncology patients and their families feel at home.

NUMC staff and volunteers Monday served a turkey dinner with all the trimmings to more than 300 people.

The dinner project began after a light-hearted comment from a cancer patient who missed the family Thanksgiving dinner because of therapy treatments. The person told a nurse the hospital owed cancer patients a turkey dinner.

Article Photos

Staff photo by Fritz Busch
‘Hap’ Raabe of New Ulm, foreground, enjoys a turkey dinner Monday in the New Ulm Medical Center Auditorium. More than 300 infusion and oncology patients and their families ate the noon meal served by medical center staff and volunteers. The meal, which is in its fourth year, is a way to recognize the whole person and not just medical needs.

Another patient offered to donate turkeys from a hobby farm for the dinner.

Pat Hartman, a Registered Nurse at NUMC, said about 100 people were served at the first dinner.

The next year, 200 were served. The number grew to 300 in 2010.

"It's a way to take care of the whole person with more than just their medical needs," Hartman said.

"This is for our patients, their families and our volunteers," she added.

Henry "Hap" and Renate Raabe of New Ulm were among the diners.

"Hap" lost 35 pounds during a stem cell transplant at the Mayo Clinic two years ago.

"In a way, it wasn't so bad for me to lose the weight. I've been a big eater all my life. All I could eat at the Mayo Clinic was ice cream, cookies and milk, which are some of my favorites," he said.

Raabe thanked his wife for taking care of him while he was at the Mayo Clinic.

"I probably couldn't have gotten along without her there as my caretaker," he said.

Raabe, 72, who worked at Kraft Foods for 37 years, recalled his time as a patient at NUMC.

"I had to get all 15 baby shots all over again after the treatment, but I'm really thankful for my recovery. I love the doctors and nurses here. They treated me like family," said Raabe.

A distance runner before he was diagnosed with cancer, Raabe recovered enough to continue his other passions - walking, lifting weights, hunting and fishing with his wife this fall.

His wife still hunts too.

"She got a deer and (wild) turkey last year," he added.

Carol Lieb of New Ulm also dined with fellow oncology patients.

In October, she was flown to Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis where she had 21 days of lung cancer treatment.

"I enjoyed my time at the medical center here," she added. "Everybody is on a first-name basis. It's like being with friends. It's a wonderful place."

Last month, NUMC announced plans to relocate and renovate its Cancer Center to accommodate growth.

The unit will move from its current location across from the emergency department into the clinic's lower level, more than doubling the its current space.

An outdoor hope garden is planned.

Construction is set to begin this spring with a summer 2011 opening.

The NUMC Foundation plans to raise $500,000 for the project, which is estimated to cost $875,000.

To donate, visit and click on "foundation" link or call 507-233-1180.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at



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