Names on Construction Beam Lift Spirits of Pediatric Cancer Patients

December 23, 2015 Brigham and Women's Hospital

The names of two dozen pediatric cancer patients from Boston hospitals have been spray-painted on a construction beam that will soon support a new cafeteria at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Tucked away on Shattuck Street, facing the windows of Boston Children’s Hospital, the names “Brooklyn,” “Nicholas,” “Kevin,” and many others are spray-painted in bright orange, light blue, pink, and white on a steel beam that will support the new cafeteria at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), which is undergoing renovation.

The two dozen names belong to pediatric patients from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Department of Radiation Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, including 5-year-old Brooklyn, who was the first patient to have her name spray-painted on the 63-ton beam. After seeing a Facebook post written by Brooklyn’s mother, a family friend working on the construction site was inspired to begin spray-painting the children’s names.

“Seeing Brooklyn’s name on that steel beam is a feeling I will never forget,” says Kerrin Dooley, Brooklyn’s mother. “To me, the beam is a symbol of community, caring, support, strength, and teamwork – all critical aspects in the fight against cancer.”

After being diagnosed in 2014 with neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of pediatric cancer, Brooklyn underwent chemotherapy, tumor resection surgery, a stem cell transplant, and immunotherapy at Boston Children’s Hospital and DFCI, as well as 12 days of radiation at BWH. Brooklyn, who is now enjoying kindergarten and dance class, finished treatment last April, and her recent scans were clear of neuroblastoma. She and her mother always make a point to visit the beam when they return every few months for checkups.

“Other parents and I are so moved that the crew from Suffolk Construction was thinking about our little warriors and making them feel so special,” says Kerrin, who lives in a Boston suburb. “It helped to keep us going. We will never forget the love and support stemming from the compassionate community here in Boston.”

Courtney Audet, a child life specialist in Radiation Oncology, has worked with several pediatric patients at BWH whose names have been spray-painted on the construction beam. She helps children and families get through radiation, working to make the process less overwhelming and scary.

“A part of them will always be with the hospital that is working so hard to save them,” says Courtney. “Seeing their names is extremely important and empowering, because the children and families see that they are not in this fight alone.”

Kerrin praises her daughter’s BWH care team, including radiation oncologist Karen Marcus, MD, radiation therapy nurse Cathy Lew, RN, and anesthesiologist Babu Koka, MD, MBBS.

“I am so thankful for the care that was provided and will be forever grateful,” says Kerrin.

– Michelle C.

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