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Patient Story

86 Names She’ll Never Forget

In the winter of 2019, Laura Hibbett’s mother and father were treated simultaneously at Mass General. In this heartfelt letter, she thanks each person she met along the way.

86 Names She’ll Never Forget

Dear Mass General team,

I cannot thank you enough for the compassionate care you provided my parents in February 2019. My dad, Tom Brigada, was admitted for an esophagectomy due to cancer. My mom, Henriet Brigada, became an unexpected patient the day after his surgery.

Before we even arrived, your team showed its kindness. Dad was a “complex” patient because he had Parkinson’s disease on top of his cancer. But Julie Garrity and Angela Chabot relieved our worries while scheduling and coordinating every detail of Dad’s procedure.

Tom and Henriet Brigada

Check-in was at 6:00 am, and the receptionists on the 3rd floor of the Wang Building were cheerful and efficient despite the time of day. When Dad was called to go back, we met Monique, the pre-op nurse, who immediately put us all at ease. She is the reason for this letter. She was so genuinely kind and caring that I wrote her name down, and thought, “Wow, I should write her a thank you note.”

The next person through the door was Rose — who had come to transport Dad. She was also so sweet that I wrote her name down too. And so, it began.

I’m grateful to everyone involved in Dad’s successful esophagectomy. Dr. Morse, the surgeon, was nothing short of a miracle worker. Thank you to Dr. Chen, the anesthesiologist; Mary, Patty and Rose, the OR nurses who called us with updates from the OR; and to everyone else in the OR who got Dad through his surgery.

Afterward, the ICU was full, so Dad ended up in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit. There we met Janelle and Pam who managed his pain and calmed his nerves despite all the tubes, drains and monitoring devices. During the night, Noreda, Jose, Vanessa, and George sat with Dad, reassuring him and keeping him company while Mom and I got some rest.

The next morning, Patti, Joanna, Marjorie, and Michelle helped stabilize Dad so he could move to the inpatient unit on Ellison 19. I stayed with Dad while Mom went down to the Emergency Department to get checked out for some abdominal pain she’d been experiencing.

Later, Mom called and asked me to come down to the ER so the doctor could go over the results of her CT scan. In the consultation room, Dr. Kabrhel told us the scan revealed pancreatic cancer. After delivering that news, he cried with us. Thank you, Dr. Kabrhel, for getting Mom admitted so quickly and for showing genuine empathy for our situation.

When I got back to Dad, I pretended like nothing was wrong (at Mom’s request). But his nurse, Michelle, saw the look on my face and gave me a much-needed hug outside his room.

On Ellison 19, Dad met two absolute blessings — Ted and Caroline. Ted helped Dad regain a sense of normalcy by getting him cleaned up with a fresh shave. Caroline treated Dad and I as though we were her own family — which was especially powerful, given that Mom, his full-time caregiver, couldn’t be there with him.

Tom and Henriet Brigada

As Dad’s Parkinson’s progressed, his confusion was worsening — but my brother and I, who both lived states away, hadn’t realized the extent. (My parents liked to downplay their own troubles, so that we wouldn’t worry.) Dr. Krause and Dr. Sachdeva always had time for my questions and never made me feel like my concerns weren’t valid. Colleen, Maria, Janisa, Sarah and Erin provided Dad’s physical, occupational and speech therapy — and while he was not always the most willing participant, they brought enthusiasm and expertise to every interaction. Thank you to the psychiatry team of Dr. Kruz, Dr. Fernandez, and Michal Dinh for working with Dad to get him feeling better.

Thank you to Dad’s many nurses, including Sam, Maria, Katie, Danielle, Kristen, Kim, Judy, Erica, and Olga who were patient beyond belief, caring, and considerate. Thank you to the nurse practitioners — Sharon, Connie, and Emily — and the many techs and sitters including Lydia, Jenna, Portia, Lionel, Janette, Ronesha, Edith, Corrinne and Marie. Your compassion and even some humor to make us feel at home were greatly appreciated.

Over on White 7, Mom’s team was taking care of her both medically and emotionally. Not many people receive a terminal diagnosis when their husband is in a fragile state at the other end of the hospital.

Elizabeth, you brought us laughter we didn’t know we had in us but also a sense of deep, heartfelt caring.

Thank you, Dr. Carter, Julie from the PACU and Dr. Wu. Thank you, Dr. Roberts, for your concern and for advocating for Mom’s comfort. Thank you to Chaplain Elsir for providing religious support.

I am grateful for the wonderful nurses and techs who kept Mom company while I was running back and forth. This included Jenna, Samantha, Paul, Sam, Regan, Harriet, Karen M., Josephine, Elmo, Kat, Maura, Barbara, Ann H., and Linda, her case manager.

Thank you to the amazing doctors involved in her care — Dr. Mehtsun, Dr. Eyler, Dr. Giantonio, Dr. Jackson, Dr. Zehm, Dr. Nguyen, Dr. Barron, Dr. Qadan and Dr. Patterson-Fortin. Each took time to sit down and let us share our concerns. They gave us hope when we had little.

Laura Hibbett (right) with her parents
Laura Hibbett (right) with her parents

Thank you to the staff of White 7 and Ellison 19 for coordinating so that Mom was able to visit Dad in his room.

With the help of Dad’s social worker, Sarah, and his case manager, Anne Marie, we navigated the daunting road ahead of us. They helped Dad get into a rehab facility in Rhode Island until Mom could be discharged. When he was discharged, EMTs David and Angie transported him to the rehab center.

Mom was discharged a short time later, picking up where she left off as Dad’s caregiver, while also powering through round after round of chemo. In September 2019, they moved to South Carolina, so that I could help them day to day.

I am so thankful for the time we did have together, and Mom spoke often of how appreciative she was of the care they received at Mass General.

Dad entered into Heaven on January 9, 2020, and Mom joined him a short time later on April 8, 2020. They were amazing parents, and we’re glad that they’re together forever in paradise and no longer suffering.

Thank you for all that you did to help them during their journeys here on earth.

With gratitude and love,

Laura Hibbett

by
Laura Hibbett
October 28, 2021