A dying 33-year-old father had a final wish, to take his 6-year-old daughter to the snow. That is not an easy request in Southern California. With teamwork, determination and the generous support of UCLA Santa Monica, this group of dedicated oncology staff made Snow Day happen. Remarkably in three short days, Snow Day happened and was perfect.
E endured 2 years of treatment including a tandem stem cell transplant and moving his family to LA. His significant other and daughter were always at his side caring, supporting and loving him. A cure was not to be and E relapsed less than a month after his stem cell transplant. Heartbroken but determined to live for his daughter he endured several more months of chemotherapy with little response.
One week before Christmas, E was admitted to the oncology unit where everyone loved him and his family. This admission, it was clear that time was short. L, his 6-year-old daughter was a bright star for her father and all around her. E held the hand of one of his dedicated nurse healers and said, “I want to take L to the snow.” As word spread about this dying wish, the compassion and need to go above and beyond took a life of its own. Oncology staff started calling, e-mailing, texting, and Snow Day was born.
Money for the 15 tons of snow was found from hospital administration. Money was Venmoed for tickets to Disney On Ice for L and her aunt. Snow gloves were purchased, Queen Elsa was found (friend of a nurse’s daughter) and many nurses and care partners were off buying “snow” stuff. Oncology staff all around were asking, “What can I do?”, “Do you need more money?”, and “Can we all come?” Staff put their own holiday plans on hold to make this event possible for E and L. This day was about more than snow; it was about dreams, compassion and our love of our oncology patients. No one at UCLA Santa Monica said “no”, but instead said, “what can we do to help?”
Night nurses and Care Partners set their alarm and dragged themselves out of bed after a few hours of sleep to witness this remarkable day. The day shift was staffed up to allow nurses to rotate down to the party. Staff came with their children, dogs and many from the hospital came to witness this remarkable event- snow in Southern California. One nurse, too busy to come to the party, took her break later in the day and she and L enjoyed an hour playing in the snow. L could not get enough time in the snow. The attending physician paused rounds and the entire team came to the party.
Respiratory Therapy was necessary as the patient was on HI-Flow Oxygen. The therapists planned and practiced how to get E outside for several hours, everyone going above and beyond their workday. Queen Elsa arrived at the patient’s room and L was speechless, this was her dream come true. Family members changed E into his Santa suit, placed him in the wheelchair and 2 respiratory therapists followed him with carts of oxygen tanks.
The Snow Day reinforced for all the oncology staff that our work is messy, difficult, and the most remarkable nursing that one can do. Our hearts were joyful watching L and E playing in the snow. None of us will ever forget the day that the oncology staff once again made an amazing difference.
E died on Christmas morning, his significant other at his side and L with family, waiting for Santa.