LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's the most wonderful time of the year for many families. But for the patients spending their holiday at the hospital, Christmas Day isn't always so merry and bright.
Nurses and staff in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at UofL Hospital are working to change that for their 12 patients and their families by cooking up a little taste of Christmas.
This is the tenth year that the BMT Unit has put on a Christmas dinner for patients. The patients also receive presents purchased with funds donated by the hospital staff.
The holiday feast is a tradition for the nurses at the clinic, but often means much more to the cancer patients staying there.
"To see it give back, it really hits the soul. It touches you deep, because you really don't realize how much people care until you get into a situation like this," patient Melody Harris said. "There's no way to express it. Because they do go above and beyond."
Harris was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia a few months ago. Then she lost her income and her home.
Harris said she stays in the mission nearby, but she wasn't letting any of that get her down. Not on Christmas. And not in front of the people at UofL who take care of her.
"The nurses and stuff, they do what they can to make you feel at home," Melody Harris said. "And of course, I decorate."
While so many other families were digging into their Christmas meals, the patients, family and staff were doing the same.
"If they've got to be stuck here on Christmas Day, then we want to make sure that we take care of them, because they're part of our family as well," BMT Unit nursing director Michelle Collins, R.N., said.
Collins provides the main course for the Christmas dinner each year. She also collects funds to donate gas and grocery money for the patients.
Collins and the nurses treat patients on Christmas, but also gather gifts and put out a spread for everyone to enjoy. And with each spoonful, they hope they spread some holiday spirit to help patients forget about their cancer for a while.
"Just to see the smile on their faces and for a little bit, for a short period of time forget that they have cancer and all that they're battling and having to deal with," Collins said.
As patients and their loved ones lined up for Christmas dinner, many were eager to see their holiday favorites cooked up for them by the nurses and staff.
"You get real close to them. And they really do cook good," Harris said. Harris spent Thanksgiving at the hospital, too.
Her cancer is in remission now and she's hopeful she will stay healthy. Harris credited the staff of the BMT Unit for helping her reach this milestone.
"They're family members to us," Maxwell Krem, the attending physician at the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at UofL Hospital said. "And so, this is where I would want to be on a holiday. And so it actually feels right to be with them."