Radiation Therapy Staff Take on the KeKe Challenge for Special Patient

It's not uncommon to hear stories about Mayo Clinic staff going above and beyond for their patients. A good example? Colleagues getting out of their comfort zone to fulfill a patient's special request.

Deanna Ziegler and her colleagues at the Proton Beam Therapy Program at Mayo Clinic are used to doing whatever they can to make their patients more comfortable. They cover them with warm blankets, play their favorite music during treatments, and paint radiation masks to make the masks less intimidating. Recently, some of them got out of their own comfort zones and danced.

It began with a special request from a special patient, Trina Dodson, who was receiving treatment for a rare cancer, olfactory neuroblastoma. "I'd seen some KeKe challenge videos on social media," Trina tells us. "One of them was of a cute, cute dentist in scrubs, and he reminded me of my team." Trina began telling members of that team that she wanted them to make a KeKe challenge video for her. Their responses ranged from "You don't want to see us dance," to "You really don't want to see us dance."

But Trina really did. And soon, Ziegler and a handful of colleagues were making plans to make a video. "Some of the male therapists took some convincing, but everyone loved Ms. Dodson so they were willing to go out of their comfort zone for her," Ziegler tells us. That included Robert Foote, M.D., Trina's doctor (and chair of Radiation Oncology) who we're told even spent time practicing his moves at home. "Dr. Foote is a pretty busy man, so we didn't think we could get him in the video," Ziegler reports. "But he was all about it for the patient."

So one night, after finishing their last patient of the day, Trina's team got ready to get down. "It was fun because everyone came together, and you got to see people go above and beyond for the patient," Ziegler says. "Dr. Foote stayed late and his wife even came in to help with the music." Around 10:30 that night, after more than a dozen takes ("We kept running into each other because someone would go the wrong way!"), the dancers finally decided, "That's a wrap."

Trina Dobson and Robert Foote, M.D.

While Ziegler and her colleagues were eager to show off their fancy footwork, Trina decided to wait to watch the video until finishing treatment. "I was far from home and wasn't going to have much family at my bell ringing, so I decided to save the video and watch it as my celebration," Trina tells us. When she finally pushed play, "It actually brought tears to my eyes," she says. "I loved the video, and I loved them all for making it. They are just wonderful, wonderful people."

The feeling is mutual. "Ms. Dodson was awesome," Ziegler says. "She joked with us every day and made us laugh. She was always excited to see us. As radiation therapists, we are privileged in that we really get to know our patients because they come every day, usually for around six weeks. We strive to make patients' days the best they can be, but often patients make our days great, which is pretty remarkable considering all they are going through."

Although Trina has finished treatment, she tells us she's already looking forward to returning to Mayo for follow-up appointments. She even plans to come early, just to say hello to some of her favorite dancers.

"The people there made such a huge impact on me," she says. "They were so, so kind to me in such an ugly world. I'm a better person because of Mayo Clinic."

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