Story by: Krissy Raque on February 24, 2016
In late July 2015, appendicitis led Mark Faulkner to the emergency department and an emergency appendectomy. During the procedure, doctors discovered he had a large tumor in his side, about the size of a banana. After immediate testing, Faulkner was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer. He began receiving chemotherapy just one week later at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital in St. Matthews.
After months of hospital visits and a whirlwind of treatment and uncertainty, Faulkner’s nurses wanted to do something to lift his spirits. On Oct. 27, Faulkner’s last day of treatment, the nursing staff threw a small party to celebrate his “graduation” from chemotherapy, complete with his favorite cake — German chocolate — and a bowl of his favorite snacks and goodies.
“All the nurses came in and surprised me and congratulated me,” Faulkner said. “It was a very pleasant experience.”
This small but meaningful gesture was made possible by the Norton Healthcare Foundation’s new Be the Bliss Fund. The premise of Be the Bliss is to provide simple, treasured, sacred moments and memories to patients, families and caregivers through small gestures.
Learn how you can share joy and peace with someone who’s working to get back on track to happiness and health. Make a donation to the Be the Bliss Fund by calling the Norton Healthcare Foundation at (502) 629-8061.
Be the Bliss was founded by the Gruns/Lagerstrom family. Laura Lagerstrom, R.N., nurse navigator for integrative medicine in the inpatient cancer unit at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, and her husband, Rex Lagerstrom, M.D, internal medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates – Mallard Creek, were inspired by the words of Laura’s late mother, Karen J. Gruns, who always said that it’s the little things that make the biggest difference, and by Rex’s mother, Theresa Lagerstrom Hargadon. Putting these words into action, they started Be theBliss to make a small but important difference in the lives of patients.
Faulkner never expected a fairly routine surgery to reveal cancer, let alone that he would undergo three months of chemotherapy. Being able to celebrate with his caregivers was a special way for him to take a deep breath after months of uncertainty and fear.
“Be the Bliss is a wonderful way to add an extra special touch of home to a patient’s care experience,” said Lynnie Meyer, Ed.D., R.N., CFRE, chief development officer for Norton Healthcare. “This program allows the community to support the patient during their stay — tending to the mind, body and spirit through the healing process.”
Examples of things the program has funded include a haircut for someone losing hair from chemotherapy, a birthday party for a hospitalized patient, an anniversary celebration or a pizza for a patient whose appetite has just returned. The possibilities of blissful moments are infinite.
“I have met so many patients, families and caregivers who need simple but really important ‘little things,’” Laura Lagerstrom said. “No matter how small they may seem, these blissful moments mean so much to someone who is constantly facing the stress, fear or uncertainty of a hospital stay.”
“No one ever expects to fight a battle like Mark did, but he did so with strength and grace. We were the lucky ones to be able to care for him and celebrate with him,” said A.J. Moore, R.N., one of Faulkner’s nurses. “All of our staff are grateful to share special moments with our patients, whether it’s a graduation from chemo celebration, birthday party or some other special occasion; we are honored to be a part of their lives and their journey.”
For people like Faulkner, life can change in a heartbeat. Coping with a serious medical diagnosis and the changes it brings to a person’s entire life can be stressful and scary. Be the Bliss makes it possible for patients and families to have small moments of joy when they are most needed.
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