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Making Wishes Come True: Fairy Godmothers of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit

An extraordinary group of nurses, led by nurse manager Taylor Andrews, B.S., RN, BMTCN, have made it their mission to become fairy godmothers for the patients they care for in the bone marrow transplant unit and to make their wishes come true.
BY Andrea Kabacinski, M.S., RN
PUBLISHED May 05, 2019
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is life-changing. It changes your plans, your outlook, your wishes and your dreams. For patients with leukemia, it also means extended hospital stays separated from the comforts of home, family and friends. That’s why the nursing staff of the bone marrow transplant (BMT) unit at Stony Brook University Hospital have made it their mission to become fairy godmothers for the patients they care for to make their wishes come true. This extraordinary group of nurses is led by nurse manager Taylor Andrews, B.S., RN, BMTCN.

Taylor, who began her nursing career as a staff nurse on the BMT unit and later was promoted to lead this team, displays a strong sense of caring and empathy toward patients facing leukemia. The values displayed by Taylor are the reason that so many celebrations, including weddings, birthday parties and anniversary parties, are held on the unit, sometimes with just 24 hours’ notice. The focus on the unit is to make the moments in patients’ lives count, and Taylor will go to great lengths to ensure that their wishes are realized. Taylor’s leadership and vision are the driving forces behind accomplishing these meaningful celebrations in the patients’ lives. After empowering the nursing staff to start making arrangements with a patient’s family members to ensure that they can participate in the event, Taylor coordinates the services needed to conduct a wedding or other celebration. She makes arrangements with the dietary and facilities departments to transform the visitors’ waiting room into a beautiful catering venue. With the help of her nursing staff, she creates a warm and beautiful location that no longer resembles a hospital waiting room. She purchases the decorations appropriate for the event and all the necessary supplies to ensure that the colors and scheme match. I am amazed at the earnestness and passion Taylor displays in creating these special moments. I think this makes her unique in her approach to healing. She focuses on what she can do to improve the quality of life for the patients on the BMT unit, because so often their outcomes are not within their control. It provides a strong sense of purpose for the nursing staff and helps offset the losses that do occur. Taylor develops relationships with the patients and the families on her unit. She visits with them daily and learns who they are beyond their diagnoses.

From left: Andrea Kabacinski, M.S., RN, and Taylor Andrews, B.S., RN, BMTCN. Photos by Elizabeth Sowa.

Recently, a wedding was held on the unit as a dying wish of a young patient whose boyfriend was going to propose at Christmas. The patient knew she would not survive to see her wedding, and she wanted to be married before she died. Taylor jumped into action after receiving the call and coordinated all the services after hours, which is a feat in itself. She made sure that there were catered food, music and decorations and that the patient’s family and friends were able to be present. She assisted the boyfriend in attaining the marriage license within 24 hours and provided emotional support to both the patient and her boyfriend during that time.

As Taylor’s supervisor, I find it gratifying to see her use her leadership to improve someone else’s life at a time when they are suffering and in pain. To be able to make a difference at this critical point provides the ultimate patient experience and is healing for the patient and the family. Families feel helpless when there isn’t a cure or the ability to make their loved one better.

What Taylor brings to the families on the BMT unit is a feeling of control — control to create an unforgettable moment in both their loved ones’ lives and their own. Finding moments of happiness is critical for patients facing leukemia, and Taylor realizes this, which is why having these celebrations is such a focus for her on the unit.

I often wonder: If my family member faced a cancer diagnosis, what kind of care would I want for them? I can say with certainty that I would want them cared for by Taylor and her nursing team. Knowing that Taylor would go to great lengths to provide an experience that would make their pain or helplessness go away for a few hours and provide a sense of normalcy is important to me and to the families that seek care for their loved ones at Stony Brook University Hospital. Taylor is an extraordinary healer and a role model for her staff.
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