Pumpkin Pie and Doing Whatever It Takes for Patients

After receiving heart-wrenching news, a patient requested one last piece of pumpkin pie with "a good cup of coffee." Care team members and the Canadian Honker fulfilled the patient’s wish.

The patient arrived just before Thanksgiving. Diagnosed with end-stage cancer by her local health care providers, she'd come to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus with the hope that something — anything — could be done to change her fortunes. After exhaustive testing and examination, however, her care team at Mayo confirmed the prognosis. The heart-wrenching news was delivered with great kindness and compassion, we're told, and the patient took the news as well as could be expected.

When asked if there was anything the care team could do for her, the patient simply inquired about whether she'd live to see one more Thanksgiving Day, which was less than a week away. Her care team answered honestly, telling her that while "we never know for sure," time was not on her side.

The patient expressed her disappointment. But to her care team's surprise, she said she'd really just like to be able to enjoy one last piece of pumpkin pie with "a good cup of coffee."

The care team told her they'd "see what they could do" and sprang into action. After checking with Food Service staff at the Saint Marys campus of Mayo Clinic Hospital, however, they were told bakers had not yet begun making the hospital's supply of Thanksgiving Day pumpkin pies.

Not willing to give up easily, members of the care team then went across the street to the see if the Canadian Honker restaurant could help them out. When told that it, too, had yet to begin baking pumpkin pies, the nurses explained the reason for the request. The restaurant's kitchen staff, without hesitation, said, "Give us an hour." Sixty minutes later, they handed the patient's care team a freshly baked pumpkin pie, which we're told was served to the patient on a "china plate with whipped cream and coffee in a china cup."

After savoring a few bites and sips, the patient pushed the pie and coffee away and rested comfortably the rest of the day. That night, she passed away peacefully in her sleep.

Her family, we're told, still talks about that pumpkin pie and coffee. And more specifically, about the great care and compassion showed to her not only by Mayo Clinic, but by Rochester's business community as well.

Mayo Clinic President and CEO, John Noseworthy, M.D., talked about it, too, during a recent Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce dinner. Dr. Noseworthy used the story in a post-dinner address to illustrate the "close partnership" in caring for patients and families that Mayo Clinic and the local Rochester business community have shared for more than 150 years. "Perhaps this is a small thing for a restaurant and caterer to do," Dr. Noseworthy told Chamber members. "But that act of service had great meaning for our patient and her family in her last days of life. She was so grateful to be able to celebrate her last Thanksgiving early."

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