Jenna Rosenberg, a transplant social worker in Arizona, turned the page and was overcome with emotions. In front of her was a scrapbook filled with photos, poems, family recipes and messages from Mayo Clinic patients and their families.
These weren't just any patients. They were members of the weekly liver transplant support group Rosenberg has been leading at Mayo Clinic in Arizona for nearly eight years. The scrapbook was their way to say thank you to a person who has helped them through some of the most difficult moments in their lives.
Before the group's holiday party in December — held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic — members of the group had arranged for a gift box to be delivered to Rosenberg's home. She was to open it during the Zoom gathering.
"I opened this beautifully wrapped box, and inside was a leather-wrapped book," Rosenberg says.
The words on the first page revealed the book's purpose:
In appreciation of all you do and have done for the many pre- and post-transplant patients. You are our guiding light, encouragement, symbol of hope, our hero and heartbeat.
Page after page, the book offered words of gratitude to Rosenberg.
"Thank you, Jenna, for being part of my care team," wrote one patient. "You have played such an important role in my life. I am forever grateful."
"Groups like this are only done in excellence when there is great leadership like yourself," wrote another.
And another: "You have provided us with the means to get us through the most difficult time of our lives."
Tears formed in Rosenberg's eyes, as she realized the magnitude of the gift and her role in the group. But she says the real stars are the members.
Rosenberg began leading the liver transplant support group in 2014, when around seven members attended the weekly gatherings. Through outreach, the group has since grown to more than 30 members.
"The magic of the group comes from the members themselves," Rosenberg says. "As the facilitator, I am just a supporting role."
Rosenberg also points to what she calls the "amazing culture" of the group, which consists of a mix of pre-transplant and post-transplant patients who embrace each other.
"They do such an amazing job of conveying hope, encouragement and validation to one another," Rosenberg says, adding that her patients have turned into a family.
Even though group meetings have been held virtually for some time now, Rosenberg says the group has remained resilient and even thrived in the new format. Several patients from other states also have been able to join.
"The most amazing part of that the group's magic is still there. They laugh and cry with each other just the same, and their warmth and compassion is felt through a computer screen," she says.
Bashar Aqel, M.D., who is medical director of the Transplant Center in Arizona and attended the support group's December meeting, says he is impressed with Rosenberg's work.
"Her hard work with the liver transplant program has inspired hope and made a difference in so many patients' lives," Dr. Aqel says. "She is dedicated, genuine, with perfect representation of the Mayo Clinic true core values."
Rosenberg's liver transplant support group has inspired much growth within the Transplant Center in Arizona.
Rosenberg helped form the first Alcoholics Anonymous group at Mayo Clinic in 2019, after she realized that some of her regular transplant group members also were recovering from addiction.
"It has been a true game-changer for the Transplant Center to have this resource, where patients can connect with others who understand what it is like to live a life in recovery and to go through a major medical crisis," Rosenberg says.
And last October, Rosenberg's group inspired the formation of yet another group, this time offering support to transplant caregivers. This group benefits Rosenberg, too.
"Co-facilitating the transplant caregiver group twice a month is helping me grow as a clinician, as the needs of a caregiver group are proving to be very different from the needs of our liver group," she says.
Rosenberg says she is proud of these accomplishments and credits her patients and her Transplant team colleagues — whom she calls remarkable — for the many successes.
But the scrapbook of gratitude also tells the story of how her leadership has made a difference — perhaps best encapsulated by this entry from a patient: "Your kindness, attention and professionalism are beyond reproach. Most important, though, is the comfort you have given me, as well as to so many others. This in my book is the definition of a successful life."
You can read a few pages of Rosenberg's scrapbook in the slideshow below: