In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

December 12, 2017

Staff “Flock” to Help Colleague’s Grandson in Need of Bone Marrow Transplant

By In the Loop

When Sharalyn Gordon’s colleagues learned her grandson needed a bone marrow transplant, they knew immediately that they wanted to do something to support Sammy and his family. The result: a series of fundraisers, including one involving pink plastic birds.

When Sharalyn Gordon’s colleagues learned her grandson needed a bone marrow transplant, they wanted to show their support. The result: a series of fundraisers, including one involving pink plastic birds.

Somewhere in the Baldwin Building on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, a flock of pink flamingos is on the move. Where they'll end up next has become a hot topic among staff in Employee and Community Health. "Everyone wants to know who has been 'flocked' and who did the flocking," says Sherri Just, a nurse on the unit. "It's been a fun day brightener for staff."

The flamingo migration — to offices of unsuspecting (or only sort of suspecting) colleagues — also has been something much more: a way to raise funds to support Sammy Chesney, the grandson of one of their own, nurse Sharalyn Gordon. Eight-year-old Sammy developed viral hepatitis over the summer, which led to a diagnosis of severe aplastic anemia this fall. His only treatment option is a bone marrow transplant. None of his family members is a compatible match, so the Chesneys have turned to bone marrow registries. Of the 29 million registered donors worldwide, just one — in Sweden — is a potential match for Sammy. The family is awaiting the results of additional tests to find out for sure.

"Sharalyn is like our work mom," says Whitney Jack, another nurse on the unit. "She's been such a giver to our department. So when she told us about Sammy, we wanted to do something to help." Jack sent an email to her colleagues asking for suggestions, "and at least half the team wrote back with ideas," she tells us. The most colorful idea came from Just, who suggested the flamingo fundraiser. She bought a flock of pink inflatable birds and invited staff to donate money to "flock" a colleague. Or, they could buy insurance against flocking. The fundraiser has proven so popular that its initial two-week run has been extended. "I have so many offices to hit that we had to go an extra week," says Just, who facilitates the birds' daily migrations.

In addition to flocking, the department, including colleagues at the Southeast Clinic, is hosting a bake sale and waffle feed on Jan. 20. Details can be found on Facebook by searching "Sammy Chesney Benefit" in the Events tab. "It warms our hearts to be able to do something to help Sammy," Jack says.

The efforts warm Sammy's mom's heart, too. Kelsey Chesney tells us the support from her mother's colleagues has been overwhelming. "They don't even know us, and they're willing to support us," she says. "It's humbling. You don't realize how much the support means until you're in these shoes."

Kelsey and her husband, Jeff, who also both work at Mayo Clinic, tell us their colleagues in the cardiovascular surgery ICU and Mayo Medical Laboratories are fundraising for the family as well. "The support we're receiving is really a testament to people's character," Kelsey says. "It's also a testament to the character of Mayo Clinic. I think it shows that the people working here truly care for others."

If you'd like to help support Sammy and his family and will be in Rochester this Thursday, there will be a pork lunch and bake sale hosted by Kelsey's colleagues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mary Brigh 5BG. And no matter where you live, consider registering as a bone marrow donor. "You could be that one person for someone," says Kelsey. Maybe even for Sammy. You can learn more online.

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Tags: Aplastic Anemia, Bone Marrow Transplant, Employee Stories, Mayo Clinic Children's Center, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Patient Stories

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