Amanda Beauregard, 31, did her best to ignore the mounting discomfort in her belly while resting in her husband Patrick’s room in Medical Oncology on Connors Center 7.
Amanda, then 38 weeks pregnant, tried to reassure herself the pain was probably just pent up stress after the crazy day they’d had. The Lowell couple originally planned to come into the Brigham that morning for an MRI scan to determine if some worrying symptoms Patrick, 32, was experiencing meant the colon cancer he’s lived with for three years had spread to his brain.
But that morning, Patrick’s symptoms were so severe that they instead took an ambulance to a nearby community hospital, and he was soon transferred to the Brigham. After an MRI confirmed a cluster of tumors were pressing on Patrick’s brain, the couple met with his care team to discuss their options, ultimately opting for surgery and radiation therapy.
After they were settled on Connors Center 7, Amanda sent a message to her obstetrician’s office about potentially transferring her care from Massachusetts General Hospital, where she had planned to deliver, to the Brigham. Just in case.
Baby Noah unexpectedly arrived a few hours later. Patrick went into the Operating Room the following day.
Behind the scenes of the family’s emotional whirlwind of events, their Brigham care teams — comprising countless staff across multiple areas — rallied together in extraordinary ways to support them at every turn.
Throughout the family’s stay, staff from several areas coordinated visits between floors so that Patrick and Amanda could be by each other’s side and bond with Baby Noah together. Anesthesiology, Neurosurgery and Operating Room (OR) staff seamlessly accommodated a last-minute schedule change to move Patrick’s surgery from Saturday to Sunday to give the couple extra time to celebrate the joyous addition to their family.
And while navigating the compounding challenges of a high census and the COVID-19 pandemic, several teams collaborated to ensure Amanda and Baby Noah could stay a few extra days so that all three could go home together when Patrick was ready for discharge.
“We were treated with such care, compassion and thoughtfulness,” Amanda said. “It took a lot of people working together to make sure we got the best care — not just physically but also emotionally — and could stay together as a family, understanding how important that was to us.”
Katherine Gregory, PhD, RN, associate chief nursing officer for Women and Newborns, described the event as a shining example of the compassionate, patient- and family-centered care that staff deliver every day.
“The pandemic has changed many things about how we care for patients and families, but it has not changed our commitment to meeting our patient’s complex health needs with expertise and empathy,” Gregory said. “Caring for Patrick, Amanda and Noah as a family required the expertise of many teams from across the Brigham.”
‘Let’s Do This for This Family’
When Amanda went into labor in Patrick’s room, Medical Oncology nurses accompanied her to Obstetrical Admitting. Baby Noah arrived about two hours later — before Patrick could even make it to Labor and Delivery, where staff ensured Amanda received additional support amid such a rapidly evolving event.
“It is not often in adult Oncology that we have a crossover to Labor and Delivery, but I think this event truly exemplifies the level of compassion and dedication that exists among our staff,” said Emily Hagens, MSN, RN, nurse director for Connors Center 7. “Everyone on the unit recognized what a unique and incredibly stressful situation it was for Patrick and Amanda.”
Obstetrics and Gynecology resident Samantha Truong, MD, who was among the many members of Amanda’s multidisciplinary care team, agreed: “In so many ways, our care expands beyond just making sure a patient is meeting their postpartum milestones. We wanted to make sure their family could be together during such an important time, from the birth of their son to Pat’s surgery. As a care team, this family’s story sat in our hearts.”
Neurosurgeon Nirav Patel, MD, who was part of the multidisciplinary team that performed Patrick’s surgery, recalled how the family’s touching story inspired the whole team.
“After we decided to postpone the surgery, I explained the situation to the OR team. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how people would react. It was already a busy weekend, and the OR was stretched a little thin due to COVID,” he said. “But, of course, everyone jumped in to help. The day of the surgery, Evan Blaney, the anesthesiologist, turned to me and said, ‘Let’s do this for this family.’ Our patients’ bravery makes any challenges we face look like nothing.”
Supporting Patients and Families
During such an unpredictable time in their lives, it was reassuring to have so many people in their corner, Amanda said.
“I cannot imagine having to go home without Pat. It just meant so much to be able to stay there and know that we were in such good hands. If I was trying to speak with one of Pat’s providers on the phone and Noah started to have a fit, my nurses would say, ‘It’s OK. I’ve got him. I’ll take him to the nursery for you,’” Amanda said. “Then they’d be on the phone with Pat’s nurses coordinating so that Pat could come down or, if Noah was in the nursery, that I could go up and see Pat.”
The dedication demonstrated by staff in the Neurosciences Intensive Care and intermediate units, where Patrick recovered after surgery, came as no surprise to Karen Reilly, DNP, RN, MBA, NEA-BC, associate chief nursing officer for Critical Care, Cardiovascular and Surgical Services.
“We have extraordinary staff who not only provide outstanding clinical care but also go above and beyond to meet the physical and emotional needs of both the patient and family,” Reilly said. “This is vital to the healing process.”
After experiencing so many ups and down with Patrick’s illness over the years, Amanda said they take each day together as a gift — one that has now become even more precious.
“Any time we get bad news, it’s obviously very shocking and so upsetting. But I think we’ve always tried to stay positive, stay hopeful and keep moving forward,” she said. “We don’t want to fill any day with negativity. We just don’t see a point in it, and that’s especially true now with Noah. We try to soak up every day together as much as we can.”