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Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation student patient navigators help patient in need

Three first-year Penn State College of Medicine medical students working as patient navigators in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation organized an opportunity to provide for a family going through a financial hardship over the holidays. The patient, a mother of five children ranging in ages from 7 to 23 (and a grandmother), was fighting stage 4 glioblastoma at the time and was staying at Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital.

Patient navigator Garrett Rucker, with two of his peer navigators, Nathan Michalak and Megan Fiorillo, and their site mentor, Nancy Lokey, RN, CRRN, CBIS, organized an angel tree with specific gifts chosen by the patient for her family. In addition to organizing the angel tree, the students decorated the patient’s room with garland and various other holiday décor and made sugar cookies for the family to decorate together.

Garrett Rucker shared his thoughts on the angel tree experience: “The angel tree was a heartwarming undertaking. Christmas is a special time of the year for families to spend time with each other and exchange gifts. In the patient’s condition, the family had different concerns and priorities than prepping for Christmas. Yet, I still wanted this Christmas to be magical, particularly for the children. The patient shared with us the different items her children wanted for Christmas and we worked hard as a team to make it happen. We decorated her room and got gifts for the whole family using the angel tree. I was amazed by the generosity of the donators and how much money was raised. It was remarkable to see all the gifts laid out across the hospital room. Helping with the angel tree showed me how much compassion and acts of kindness can positively impact the patient. The smile on her face made it all worth it.”

With generous donations from the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and rehab hospital staff, the team was able to provide all the gifts requested for the patient’s children and grandchild along with a gift card to Giant for the patient and her husband.

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