Shannon Bigelow and her colleagues on 4 Main, UPMC Shadyside, know that on Thanksgiving Day, there is no substitute for a home-cooked turkey dinner with all the traditional trimmings.

“Unfortunately, a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner is not something available to our patients who have to be in the hospital along with their families,” says Bigelow, a registered nurse on the 40-bed surgical oncology unit. “That’s why my co-workers and I decided to cook at home and bring the feast to our patients and families so they could enjoy a great Thanksgiving right here in the unit.”

Bigelow started to plan the event with Lori Ewell, a patient care technician. “But in a very short period of time, others throughout the unit wanted to be involved,” says Cynthia Matthews, unit director, 4 Main.

Two members of the unit’s clinical team, Sharon Skalos and Diana Curry, prepared turkeys to feed more than 30 patients and family members. Others brought in mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, vegetable dishes and trays, and desserts for all. PCTs Brandi Lee and Melissa Bayerlein handled much of the setup and decorating. Ms. Ewell also assisted with setup and kept the food warm throughout the day.

“The entire day went extremely well, and the families and patients were very appreciative. A lot of them went back for seconds and thirds. One family member said, 'I'm so glad I get to have home-cooked turkey on Thanksgiving. I didn't think I would be able to,’” explains Bigelow. Various patient nutritional statuses also were covered. Gift bags with hard candy were distributed. Patients on full liquids had the opportunity to enjoy butternut squash soup.    

Planning is under way for a Christmas Day dinner. “Holidays can be a sad time to be in the hospital, so we hope to do something special to make it a special time on 4 Main,” adds Bigelow.