In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

August 1, 2019

Fireflies (and the Radiation Therapist Who Caught Them) Light Up Patient’s Time at Mayo

By In the Loop

After a patient mentioned to radiation therapist Jenn Deweese that she was excited to see fireflies for the first time while in Minnesota, Jenn (and her kids) made it happen.

Jenn Deweese could have taken the comment for what it was and left it at that. Instead, she used it as a springboard to doing something to make her patient's time at Mayo Clinic one she won't soon forget.

It started when the patient arrived in Mayo Clinic's Proton Beam Therapy Center in Rochester. "She'd been under treatment for a while and needed a CT scan to verify revisions to her treatment plan," Jenn, a radiation oncology therapist, tells us.

Before that CT scan began, Jenn struck up a conversation with her patient. "I hadn't met her before that day," she says. "When you're working the CT scanner you usually just meet patients that one time before they go on with their treatment elsewhere on the floor, so it can be hard to connect with patients, but I still like to try."

Jenn began by asking her patient where she was from. "I think she said Portland, Oregon," Jenn says. "She was very excited to come to Minnesota because she'd never seen a firefly before. She then asked where she should go in town to find one." Jenn, in true Mayo Clinic team spirit, consulted her fellow radiation therapists for recommendations.

Later that night, Jenn looked out her kitchen window and smiled. "There were a ton of fireflies in our yard," she says. "So I grabbed my kids and we went outside, caught a whole bunch of them, and put them in a mason jar." With a jar-full of lightning bugs now in her possession, Jenn researched how to keep them alive and well. "

When she woke the next morning Jenn checked on her tiny house guests. "They were all still alive so I brought them to work with me." There, Jenn devised a plan to get her bounty of lampyridae to her patient. "She wasn't scheduled to be back on my floor until after my shift, so I gave the jar to another radiation therapist and said, 'Hey, if you see this patient please give her these fireflies from me,'" Jenn says.

The next day, the patient returned during Jenn's shift to thank her in person. "It was a very easy task for me, and I knew it would make her happy," she says. "Once my kids found out why we were doing it, they were very interested in seeing it through to the end and wanted to know if she liked the fireflies. The patient was touched by that, and it helped show my kids that it can be easy to do nice things for others if you just make the effort."

An effort that Jenn's supervisor, Jilaine Rendler, tells us comes as no surprise. "This is simply who Jenn is," Rendler says. "She, like everyone else on our team, is sincere and truly cares about our patients' overall well-being. They routinely do things like this without seeking outside recognition and without thinking they're doing something special."

We know of at least one patient from Portland, however, who may disagree.

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Tags: Employee Stories, Jenn Deweese, Proton Beam Therapy Program, Radiation Oncology

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