Some of our patients needing organ transplants must wait at the hospital on the transplant list for months. They tell us that the uncertainty that comes from the waiting process is the hardest part. The Streetlight Transplant Team strives to make relationships with patients awaiting transplants and to break up the monotony of the waiting game.
The Transplant Team was largely inspired by a special patient who became one of our closest friends. When she received the news that she needed to wait at UF Health until she received a heart transplant, she did not realize she would be missing out on her entire senior year of high school. Streetlight rallied together to make the best of the present moment. When the weeks neared the date of her prom, one of our Streetlight guys, Noah, said, “Let’s throw her a prom here!” We brought in decorations, food, and one of our members, Sara, collaborated with the patient to DJ a personalized playlist including her senior class song. We set up a photo booth with funny props and costumes. One of our Streetlight guys, Jorge, surprised her by asking her to prom with flowers, and on the big day friends and family were there to take photos of the two walking to prom together. We crowned her Prom Queen and danced the entire night together as friends. It was an amazing night for all of us. She graduated from high school the next month, and although she could not be present at the auditorium to walk with her class, we threw her a graduation party at the hospital. With the help of our IT Department, we were able to virtually bring her to her graduation, setting up a video feed through an iPad carried by her sister across the stage at the auditorium in Jacksonville.
Because of our experience with this patient, along with other relationships we began forging around this time, we realized that those undergoing transplant have a unique set of challenges in trying to keep up hope and motivation through an indefinite hospital stay, and that these individuals needed a specific type of support.
For long-stay patients, the Streetlight Transplant Team creates a calendar filled with personalized inspirational notes, song lyrics, quotes, and sometimes jokes from the team. Because waiting is so hard, the calendar is designed to provide a daily reminder of our support. Long-stay hospitalizations give us a lot of time to get to know our patient friends personally including their interests and favorite things. The Transplant Team creates personalized bi-weekly coupons that provide a hint about an upcoming surprise given by the team. We like to keep some mystery surrounding the event so that the patient has something fun to look forward to in the future. These coupons are designed to break up the monotony of the waiting process. The coupon event could be a personalized room decoration, movie night, or even a musical performance given by Streetlight members. When our patients finally receive their transplant, the team follows up through group video-chat sessions and cards to keep our support going even beyond the patient’s time at the hospital. Ultimately, the Transplant Team creatively works together to carry transplant patients through the long and arduous journey of transplant both in and outside of the hospital.