TWM Gives Back: Community Healthcare of Texas Little Doves Pediatric Hospice – The Nathan Lin Story
There are many heroes in healthcare. Children’s hospitals and specialists are among the most celebrated, and rightly so, but a different kind of hero is needed when curative care fails.
This is the call pediatric hospice teams answer. In the difficult days that follow a child’s terminal diagnosis, Community Healthcare of Texas Little Doves Pediatric Hospice gives comfort and makes the days count for children and their families.
Most Community Healthcare of Texas patients are age 65 and older, but heartbreaking reality brings more than 100 children to the Little Doves Pediatric Hospice program each year. Their care is a demanding specialty that requires expert knowledge of a wide range of children’s medical conditions and an interdisciplinary team equipped to support the medical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs of young patients like eight-year-old Nathan Lin.
His mother, Cathy Lin, shares his story to comfort and strengthen other families facing the unimaginable.
Nathan was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer, in 2015. It was devastating news for Cathy, her husband Jeff, a surgeon, and Nathan’s older brother and sister.
Yet through it all—10 months of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy—Nathan lived, laughed, and inspired everyone he met. He tolerated treatment well, and family photos of the months that followed Nathan’s diagnosis show a close-knit family making every single day count.
“We were in a golden period when celebrations were frequent and life definitely took on new meaning,” Cathy said.
There was a dream vacation to Disney World, a big family Thanksgiving dinner, and the triumphant February day Nathan got his wish to sign a ceremonial letter of intent to swim for TCU. Local media captured the day’s events, and video shows the family’s VIP welcome at TCU, the signing ceremony, and a beaming Nathan.
When a reporter asked him to describe the day, Nathan had just one word for it. “Awesome,” he said.
Cathy could not have agreed more. “I actually let myself think about our future beyond just the days ahead of us,” she said. “I even started making plans for our summer vacation–we were winning!”
Then Nathan developed extreme fatigue and was admitted to the hospital. There an MRI showed the cancer has spread to his brain stem, and Cathy’s soaring hopes collapsed.
“We heard the words no parent can ever imagine hearing—’there is nothing more we can do’,” Cathy remembers. “‘We recommend you go home with hospice’.”
Choosing a hospice provider was just one of many heart-wrenching decisions ahead. Community Healthcare of Texas Little Doves Pediatric Hospice was the most responsive, their oncology team said, and it earned the privilege of caring for the Lin family. Their hospice team – a nurse, a social worker, a chaplain, a child life specialist, and physician – managed Nathan’s symptoms and answered the countless questions parents ask when faced with the final days of a child’s life.
When and how to tell Nathan he was dying was just one of these. Child Life Specialist Kelly Cox prepared Cathy for that conversation and assured her she would know when the time was right.
No one guess the time would come on Mother’s Day. Nathan had struggled to breathe the night before, and “I could not take the chance that Nathan would pass without understanding what was happening,” Cathy said. A slender book, I Wonder What You Will Do on Your First Day in Heaven, helped her find the words to tell her son he was dying. Kelly had recommended the book, and Cathy began reading it to Nathan, as she would every day until Nathan’s own story ended.
A growing collection of titles helps children and families face a final illness or loss. Donating children’s books from the following list is just one way you can help Community Healthcare of Texas Little Doves Pediatric Hospice comfort young patients and their families.
Look for these titles in your favorite online store.
- “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
- “Ida, Always” by Caron Levis, Charles Santoso
- “My Yellow Balloon” by Tiffany Papageorge, Erwin Madrid
- “My Many Colored Days” by Dr. Suess
- “In My Heart (A Book of Feelings)” by Jo Witek
- “When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death” by Laurie Krasny Brown
- “The Memory Box” by Joanna Rowland
Financial gifts support Little Doves Pediatric Hospice programs, including:
- The Little Doves Activity Bag project, which provides colorful bags filled with journals, wooden photo frames, crayons, modeling clay, markers, stickers and other memory-making supplies appropriate for children ages 4 – 18. These encourage healthy self-expression, memory-making, and other healing arts, all cleverly disguised as play.
- Legacy gifts like thumbprint charms provide a comforting memento of a loved one.
- Patient and family sessions with our certified child life specialist and pediatric Grief Care specialist meet children on their own level.
- Compassionate care for uninsured children and their families.
Be the hero who helps children and families at their most vulnerable: visit at www.CHOT.org to learn more about ways you can give comfort through Community Healthcare of Texas.
A serious or final illness changes the lives of all it touches. Community Healthcare of Texas, the state’s largest not-for-profit hospice and palliative care provider, prepares, cares for and comforts everyone in the circle of life. Its services include advance care planning programs, four levels of adult and pediatric hospice care, and Grief Care for anyone in the community who needs help living with loss. Call 1-800-226-0373 to connect with Community Healthcare of Texas.
Diane Wolfe, CFRE, is Development Officer at Community Healthcare of Texas. She has served the Tarrant-area nonprofit community for more than 25 years and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Grant Professionals Association.