In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

September 26, 2023

Care team becomes family, celebrates deceased patient’s first grandchild with a bell ringing in his — and her — honor

By In the Loop

Before Amie Christiansen passed away from cancer, she told her daughter there was one thing she wished she'd been able to do: Ring a bell signifying the end of her treatment. Amie's care team found a way to honor that wish.

When Montana Koleber and her husband, Robbie, welcomed their son, Kylian, to the world, among the first people they introduced him to were Patrick Johnston, M.D., Ph.D., and Cecilia Merrigan, D.N.P. — part of the team that cared for Montana's mother, Amie Christiansen, before she passed away from indolent, nonaggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"When you take care of a patient with an incurable malignancy for many years, you become a member of their family," Dr. Johnston says.

So, when Montana delivered her first child, she was eager to share the milestone with Dr. Johnston and Merrigan.

"I emailed Cecilia to ask if she and Dr. Johnston would come visit us in the hospital and bring the bell to ring," Montana says.

'The bell' is a brass nautical bell mounted on a wooden stand with a simple plaque on the back that reads In Memory of Amie. Dr. Johnston and Merrigan — with help from their colleague, Thomas Habermann, M.D. — made the bell and stand for Montana to ring in honor of her mother's courageous 10-year fight against cancer. (You can read more about Amie and the bell in this story.)

The answer to Montana's request was a resounding yes. Just days after Kylian Ames — "One of my mom's nicknames," Montana says of her son's middle name — arrived, Dr. Johnston and Merrigan walked through the halls of Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, Methodist Campus bearing the bell, baby gifts and a photo of the person who connected them to Montana.

"Montana had given us a picture of Amie, and I brought that with when we visited," Merrigan says. "As I walked over, I was thinking about how much of an impact Amie continues to have on our patients and staff through the bell and how we were going to get to share that with her grandson. People like Amie are why I love what I do."

The meeting was meaningful for all involved, full of laughter, tears, and gratitude for new life and enduring relationships.

Amie and Montana.

"It meant so much to me that they visited and brought the bell over for us to ring," Montana says. "It was like my mom coming to see Kylian. Dr. Johnston and Cecilia remind me a lot of my mom. She would have been really happy to know they came."

She also would have been a "beaming grandmother," Merrigan says.

"Amie was so proud of her daughters," she says. "I can only imagine the number of pictures of Kylian she would have had to share with me before her appointments."

Montana agrees.

"My mom would have loved being a grandma," she says. "She used to try to explain how much you love your child. Now I understand what she was trying to tell me."

Montana says she sees her mother in her son.

"Kylian looks a lot like my mom," she says. "He has her face shape and the same color eyes and hair."

He has something else from his Grandma Amie as well.

"Kylian has a beautiful birthmark on his cheek that Montana calls a kiss from Amie," Dr. Johnston says. "When Montana rang the bell in Amie's honor, it made me think of a line from the movie "It's a Wonderful Life:" 'Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.' I'm sure Amie is watching down over her family."

Tags: Patient Stories

Please sign in or register to post a reply.
Contact Us · Privacy Policy