Supporting the Unsupported: Nurse Cheers Patients with 'Bravery Bags'


“‘Compassionate,’ “cheerleader,’ ‘friend’ ‘supporter’ and ‘angel’ are just a few words used by patients and staff to describe Harding Cranford, RN, OCN,” wrote Erin Auten, RN.

“Compassionate,” “cheerleader,” “friend,” “supporter” and “angel” are just a few words used by patients and staff to describe Harding Cranford, RN, OCN. Cancer is a hard thing to wrap your head around, especially if you do not have the support system to help you through this journey. Receiving treatment is often difficult to manage due to side effects, transportation needs and time commitments, to name a few. Often, patients come in alone, having no one to talk to, or appear tearful because of the stress they are under due to their diagnosis. There was one patient in particular who everyone would take time out of their day to go visit, because he had no support system to help him during or outside his treatments. It was this patient who sparked Harding to have an incredible idea for helping patients going through this tough time.

She created a group called Bravery Bags, through which people would fill bags with items such as books, drinks, treats and activities for men and women of various ages who were receiving treatment. Those who participated could either fill a bag with items they thought a patient would like or get suggestions from Harding about items for a specific patient she knew would benefit. She thought this would be a great pick-me-up for patients who might be having a rough day.

From left: Erin Auten, RN, and Harding Cranford, RN, OCN. Photos by Erica Mark.

Harding wants people outside of our workplace to help create the bags and works tirelessly to facilitate this, whether it’s by networking with potential sponsors or picking up bags from people who have filled them. These bags are given to patients when a staff member thinks they would benefit from one. I have been witness several times to a patient receiving a bag. They are overwhelmed with joy and weep happy tears. Most patients do not know what to say, but all express the same feelings of gratitude and appreciation that someone took time to create a bag for them, helping them through this process. In fact, some patients who received bags wanted to give back and donated items for other patients.

The project started small, with several people contributing to bags, then grew to include an entire Facebook group dedicated to this cause. Now, Bravery Bags are available not only at Levine Cancer Institute’s main location but also at outlying Levine Cancer Institute facilities. These bags have made patients feel that there are people who care and are cheering for them to get through this difficult journey.

Harding has always gone above and beyond for her patients, whether taking the time to sit and talk with them, getting them lunch if they forgot theirs or simply grabbing them another blanket. She is a special person who constantly gives of herself for the sake of others. She will do whatever it takes to ensure that our patients are receiving the best care and having the best possible experience while receiving treatment. She has a unique connection with most of the patients, and many request her as their nurse or track her down on the floor to say hello and get a hug. She is never one to ask for praise or who needs to be acknowledged for her good deeds; she just quietly takes pride in what she does: going the extra mile to make the cancer patients at Levine Cancer Institute feel special.

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