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A Mother's Lifeline: An Amazing Oncology Nurse

An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring Tabatha Doyle, RN [ St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee ]
BY Lindsay Querin
PUBLISHED September 17, 2016
Tabatha Doyle, RN with Lindsay Querin and Townes Carter Querin - PHOTO BY ANN MARGARET HEDGES
Tabatha Doyle, RN with Lindsay Querin and Townes Carter Querin - PHOTO BY ANN MARGARET HEDGES
Tabatha Doyle is someone who was an extraordinary healer for my family before my son’s brain tumor treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I cannot speak enough to how much it meant to have her talk me through the transition process and how her knowledge of the treatment process and associated protocols gave me peace of mind. My world was upside down when my son was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, but she helped turn it back around.

On March 5, 2015, my son was given the possible diagnosis of medulloblastoma, and my heart dropped when I heard that news. I work at a children’s hospital in Mississippi, and I was familiar with medulloblastoma and some of the treatment process associated with it. However, it scared me to know that my 15-month-old was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and I wanted to do anything I could to make sure he received the best care.

March was a very hectic time for my family, with testing and hospital visits leaving me in a nervous emotional state and searching for answers. We were constantly researching for more information after the final pathology report came back confirming the diagnosis of desmoplastic medulloblastoma, and after being discharged from his craniotomy with a post-op pseudomeningocele, there was a lingering threat of another operation to have a ventricular-peritoneal (VP) shunt placed.

When our son’s neurosurgeon took his scheduled family trip for spring break after the initial surgery, we didn’t want to bother him on his vacation, but I became incredibly anxious because the only remaining neurosurgeons at the hospital specialized in adult care. That anxiety turned into frustration as we were receiving conflicting information from the hospital staff.

While in our hometown emergency room for possible complications from the pseudomeningocele, I called St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to learn more about their treatment options and to receive information about their protocols. I spoke with Tabatha Doyle, and she comforted me with the amount of knowledge she had and her willingness to help.

She listened to my dilemma and was able to accurately identify treatment protocols that my son was eligible for. Her wealth of knowledge and the manner in which she delivered it helped put my mind at ease. She provided information about St. Jude and told me that even if my son needed a VP shunt and wasn’t able to travel by car, she would see to it that my wishes were met and have him airlifted to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital so that he could be seen by a pediatric neurosurgeon and have them perform the surgery if found necessary.

Tabatha is a patient coordinator in the brain tumor clinic at St. Jude, and she gave me the tools I needed to make the decision to transfer my son there, making sure it was the correct move for us. She responded to calls and questions after hours, and gave me her number so that we could share text messages addressing any concerns. The assurance that Tabatha provided made me feel confident about the decision to transfer to St. Jude and that with their care and treatment, our son would be able to beat this horrible disease.

For that tenuous week, Tabatha was my lifeline and I spent a lot of time that week talking with her on the phone. She was knowledgeable enough to assist me in deciding on an appropriate treatment for my son, and she made the transition process a much easier venture. More than that, Tabatha’s compassion for my son’s care made transferring a relief. We felt like St. Jude was a welcoming and inviting place. Her understanding and support helped ease my mind and helped put me in a better state emotionally.

When we arrived at St. Jude, the registration process was a blur because of all the introductions and paperwork, but meeting Tabatha in person was the moment that stands out to me. When I saw her, we immediately hugged and it felt like we had been friends for a long time. It was incredibly moving for Tabatha to care that much about someone on the other end of a telephone, and I cannot thank her enough for helping us change the direction of my son’s care.

For my family, she is much more than a patient coordinator. Spending time on the phone with me, she gave me a sense of trust and comfort, along with friendship and understanding. I cannot express how grateful I am to have met Tabatha and how thankful my family is to have someone like her.
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