Grandmother-to-be leaves legacy

Dina Anthony looked forward to the day she would become a grandmother for the first time.

The 41-year-old York County woman has been paralyzed from the neck down since a car crash 16 years ago and has relied on her daughters to help her through hard times.

She knows the importance of family, and so was overjoyed to learn that her wish to become a grandmother was about to come true. Her oldest daughter, Brittnay, 23, would soon have a child of her own in April.

Not long after the happy announcement, doctors diagnosed Anthony with kidney cancer. During weeks as an inpatient in the Medical Intermediate Care Unit at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Anthony’s connection with the medical staff strengthened as her prognosis worsened.

“We became like a little family,” said Darby Catalano, a dayshift nurse in the Medical Intermediate Care Unit. When Anthony told the staff her daughter wanted her to be the one to reveal the baby’s gender, she asked the nurses how they thought she should do it.

“She won’t be here when the baby comes,” Brittnay said. “We knew that was the one thing hurting her most, so we wanted to make the gender reveal a big thing and have her be involved in some way.”

Soon after Anthony told her nurses about the gender reveal idea, one of them appeared with a stuffed animal she could record her voice on for the baby.

Catalano helped Anthony come up with a script, write it out and practice recording it in the limited time the stuffed animal’s device allowed. “That was so funny because it kept cutting us off,” she said.

Staff reached out to Patient- and Family-Centered Care for ideas about the celebration. Charge nurse Chelsea Stoner bought balloons. Nurse manager Jeff Fine acquired approval to photograph the ceremony. Nurse Amanda Filiash helped Anthony process and grieve the loss of the future she had envisioned.

Once all the family had gathered in her hospital room, Anthony pressed the stuffed animal’s button and played her message. At the end, when she told Brittnay she would be mother to a “beautiful bundle of boy,” nurses popped the blue and pink balloons to reveal blue confetti, released an “It’s a boy!” balloon they had weighed down with a pillow and produced a vase of blue flowers.

Anthony said Brittnay was all smiles during the ceremony, but it was difficult for her to do without bawling her eyes out. “It was hard, but I was being strong for my daughter,” she said.

Catalano said the ceremony was a small thing they hoped would make a big difference.

“She had a very long and emotionally strenuous stay, so it was a really special thing we were able to share with her,” Catalano said. “We wanted to help lift her spirits and help her have a lasting impact on her grandchild’s life even if she couldn’t be physically present.”

If you're having trouble accessing this content, or would like it in another format, please email the Penn State College of Medicine web department.