A mother’s praise of her son’s caregivers spurs similar memories, and support.
Family photo by HELENE NORTON-RUSSELL
Kari McHugh was dreading February 5, the six-month anniversary of her son Michael’s death from cancer of the soft tissue. But she found herself enveloped in support from readers responding to a story she’d written for the Boston Globe Magazine about the excellent care Michael had received from his nurses .
She wrote it hoping to “as publicly as possible acknowledge how far [the nurses] went for our son,” McHugh says. After her story appeared online, her e-mail, voicemail, and Facebook page were flooded with kind messages from around the country. “I don’t know what I thought was going to happen, but it definitely exceeded my expectations,” McHugh says. She was pleased, too, that a special fund for nurses created in memory of her son saw a jump in donations.
Before he passed away in August 2017, 13-year-old Michael McHugh decided he wanted to celebrate the oncology nurses at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who had always found a way to make him smile throughout his difficult and ultimately unsuccessful treatment regimen. He and his mother brainstormed the idea that became the Nurses Fund. The fund aims to raise $100,000 to give gifts to the 165 pediatric oncology nurses at the two hospitals through 2025, when Michael would have turned 21. The Nurses Fund has collected about $15,000 in response to McHugh’s article, much of it from strangers.
Many of the donors’ messages recalled special nurses who had treated their loved ones. Some notes came from people McHugh didn’t know, but her son had, including one of Michael’s counselors at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut, which runs programs for children with serious illnesses. Anthony Ackil, chief executive of Boston-based restaurant chain B.Good, whose french fries Michael loved, contacted McHugh and promised $15 gift cards to the Boston-based restaurants to each of the 165 nurses on their birthday, for the next five years.
In total, the fund has now raised about $65,000, McHugh says.
Some of the most powerful notes came from families the McHughs knew from the hospital, whose children were still being treated. A number of readers also wrote the Globe to share condolences and their own stories of extraordinary caregivers. “The support we received has been incredible,” says McHugh. “It feels like it holds you up.”
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