Memorial Donation Brings Comfort and Warmth to Dialysis Patients

  • October 04, 2012

Dialysis Nurse Dora Jensen wraps patient Juel Berdahl of Brookings in a fresh blanket from the new blanket warmer donated by Dick and Theanne Peterson in memory of lifelong Brookings resident John H Gustafson.
Dialysis Nurse Dora Jensen wraps patient Juel Berdahl of Brookings in a fresh blanket from the new blanket warmer donated by Dick and Theanne Peterson in memory of lifelong Brookings resident John H Gustafson.

Friends and family of John H. Gustafson, a lifelong Brookings resident and business leader who passed away on March 25, gathered in the kidney dialysis waiting room at Brookings Health System on Sept. 26 to recognize a gift presented in Gustafson’s memory.

Dick and Theanne Peterson, friends of Gustafson’s, donated funds to Brookings Health System Foundation to purchase a blanket warmer for the kidney dialysis unit housed within Brookings Health System’s hospital and operated by Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center.

“Whenever Theanne and I picked up John from dialysis, he was always so cold,” said Dick Peterson. “I understood the Brookings dialysis unit didn’t have a blanket warmer. It seemed like a logical gift to continue John’s memory and to help other patients.”

“Dialysis patients become cold because when their blood is dialyzing, it leaves their body, causing them to lose heat,” said Dialysis Unit Director Mary Hughes. “Because they are susceptible to diseases from bacteria, bringing in their own blanket from home isn’t a safe option. The blanket warmer allows us to provide a clean, warm blanket to patients and give them comfort. It’s such a wonderful gift.”

The warmer holds 25 blankets and allows the dialysis unit, which will soon expand to accommodate 21 patients, to have enough blankets on hand for all dialysis patients.

“Many patients on dialysis are very sick and sometimes they do not have a lot to get excited about,” said Hughes. “However, since we’ve added the blanket warmer for our patients, they have shared their enthusiasm for it. Because of this generous gift, we can offer something that offers comfort to our patients.”

In May, Brookings Health System officially announced it extended a lease agreement to Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center of Sioux Falls to operate the kidney dialysis unit housed within the hospital. Avera McKennan, which opened the unit in July, agreed to make the center an open unit, meaning that any nephrologist, regardless of facility affiliation, may admit and treat patients there. Gustafson encouraged the Brookings Health System’s board of trustees to find a provider who would operate the dialysis unit openly.

“John knew he wouldn’t live to see dialysis in Brookings become an open unit,” said Gustafson’s wife, Dawn. “He knew his legacy would be to help others. He’d be delighted to see the outcome.”

“On behalf of Avera, we are thrilled to be here in this strong and caring community,” said Hughes.

“I would like to thank the board of directors and CEO Jason Merkley for listening to the people of this community, bringing in Avera, and making dialysis an open unit for all people in our community,” said Peterson.

Two plaques were added to the dialysis waiting room, one from Brookings Health System Foundation and one from Gustafson’s family, commemorating the gift and Gustafson.

“One word John always said was that he was so humbled because everyone rallied behind him,” said his sister, Vivian Langland. “If John were here, he’d say he found out what the love of friends is about.”

About Brookings Health System Foundation

Brookings Health System Foundation works to cultivate philanthropic gifts to support charity health care for those less fortunate; health and wellness education; facility, equipment, and technology upgrades; and other needs as they arise at Brookings Health System. For more information about Brookings Health System Foundation or how you may contribute, please contact Foundation Officer Barb Anderson at (605) 696-8855 or

About Brookings Health System

Brookings Health System, located in Brookings, South Dakota, includes a 49-bed hospital, the 79-bed Brookview Manor nursing home, and Brookhaven Estates apartments. It is a non-profit, city-owned facility that offers the community a full range of inpatient, outpatient, and extended care services. The emergency room is staffed 24 hours a day and provides around the clock medical-nursing care for patient needs ranging from minor injuries to life threatening crises. For more information about the services offered at Brookings Health System, please call (605) 696-9000 or visit us on the Web at