A Gift to Kaylee: My Riley Story

August 5, 2013
Topics: About Us

I work the night shift on the Stem Cell Transplant unit at Riley Hospital, where we provide children with bone marrow transplants for advanced-stage tumors, leukemias and immune diseases. When talking about my job, I often say that children with cancer develop a true understanding of life, long before their peers. I can't even begin to explain how much I have learned from the kids we take care of. Many times I have gone home after my shift with a reminder of how rich life truly is when you can so easily see the things that matter. It is the type of job where you look forward to the next time you work, since you'll be able to spend time with a kid that you really enjoy taking care of.

I had an experience with a patient recently that has made an especially large impact on my life. It started when I took care of a little girl named Kaylee Warren from Frankfort for a few nights during her initial diagnosis of a rare and inoperable brain tumor. She was not regularly supposed to be treated on the Stem Cell Transplant Unit, but due to the high number of patients on the oncology unit, she was placed on our floor for her stay. I was assigned to take care of Kaylee my first night for the week, and did so the following two nights as well. I instantly clicked with her - she was sweet and goofy, and I shared more than a handful of laughs with her and her family. After her unfortunate diagnosis, the family was told that the rest of her treatment would be done on an outpatient basis.

I didn't think that I would see Kaylee again, however, a few days later, I learned that she was having a clinic appointment timed perfectly for when I was leaving work. I stopped by the Riley Outpatient Center to visit her, and this became a regular thing. It wasn't much, I would just stop in to visit and catch up before I headed home to sleep, sometimes bringing her a pop or her favorite candy. This continued for many weeks as she became increasingly sick from the progression of her disease, and was often admitted to the hospital. Her family was always so extremely thankful for my visits, and I never quite understood why a simple act warranted such special appreciation.

Unfortunately, Kaylee was not able to win her battle after fighting for almost a year with a smile on her face. Later, I was able to understand something that I had not been able to grasp previously. After Kaylee passed, her mother sent me many notes of gratitude. She told me that in those final months of Kaylee's life that I had given her an irreplaceable and priceless gift: I had made Kaylee feel special. I remember thinking that night before going to bed that being able to do that was the greatest thing that I could ever do with my life. It is something I will never ever forget.

My message to all the fundraisers and donors who support Riley is simple: The people employed at this hospital do care and they do make a difference. I've seen it all around.

Hope really does happen at Riley.

To make a gift to Riley in honor of an extraordinary caregiver or patient, visit Rileykids.org.

Jake Harmon

Jake is an oncology nurse who works in the Stem Cell Transplant unit at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. He grew up in Mishawaka, Ind., and studied pre-med for three years before a change of heart guided him into nursing. Upon graduation from Indiana University South Bend, the first thing he did was apply to Riley Hospital with the sole ambition of working in pediatric oncology. Jake is also an avid Notre Dame football fan.

comments powered by Disqus

Browse More Blog Posts

View Blog Posts by Category
Sign up for Riley Blog Emails