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Palliative Care Patient Surprised with a Trip to See the UK Wildcats Play Ball

Community news | Wednesday, December 21, 2016
group smiling

St. Claire Regional’s (SCR) Palliative Care team recently removed all obstacles to help a patient fulfill a lifelong dream. Melissa Johnson is a 40-year-old palliative care patient who is bedbound due to functional quadriplegia caused by Cerebral Palsy. But Melissa is much more than that; she is a true blue UK Wildcat fan who doesn’t let anything stop her from cheering on her favorite basketball team.

David Sindler, M.D., St. Claire Regional Family Medicine resident, began seeing Melissa at her home in August to cut down on her trips to the Medical Center. On Sindler’s first visit to see Melissa, he noticed her room was covered in UK basketball décor and that she lit up when talking about the Cats. So, he came up with the idea of taking her to see them play.

“My role as a primary care physician is not to just treat illness, but to try to improve quality of life, which can mean different things for different patients,” Sindler says. “For Melissa, I felt like having this experience would benefit her whole quality of life, both in the moment and as she remembers it in the future.”

When Sindler returned to SCR, he shared his idea and the response was overwhelming. “Everyone I talked to felt like this would be something really awesome for her,” Sindler says. “It shows just how patient-centered our staff really is.”

Sindler started by collaborating with Amanda Skaggs, SCR social worker, who has been working with Melissa for the last four years, to set the plan in motion. “Our patients are our patients, even when they’re at home,” Skaggs adds. “We were placed in their lives to help them, which is why I was so happy to get involved.”

Sindler and Skaggs then teamed up with other SCR staff to make this possible. SCR Palliative Care Physician John Sanders, M.D., who has been treating Melissa for a year, purchased the tickets and Wildcat paraphernalia, and SCR Pastoral Care paid for their transportation to and from Rupp Arena.

Melissa got to see her Cats live in action on Wednesday, Dec. 7, with Sindler and her mother, Rita. “We’ve always said one of these days we would go, and we finally got to,” Rita says. “It was a very good experience to get out and have fun for a change. Melissa really, really enjoyed it, and we want to thank everyone involved for giving her that happiness.”