Emma Patrick

Oct. 27, 2022
A photo of Emma Patrick
Emma Patrick

Honoring a patient during a challenging time

After a car accident, Katelyn Anderson, 18, was going to miss the biggest milestone of her life: her high school graduation.

That’s when one of Katelyn’s caregivers jumped into action.

If Katelyn couldn’t get to her graduation at Prairie View High School in Henderson, then her social worker was determined to bring the graduation to Katelyn.

Emma Patrick, a clinical social worker for trauma and acute care surgery at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, follows patients from admission to discharge. She often develops close relationships with patients and their families, getting to know them well throughout their time in the hospital.

Patrick learned that Katelyn was devastated to be missing her graduation. So Patrick immediately came up with a plan to bring the graduation to the hospital.

First, she brainstormed about the right location. Katelyn thought her hospital room would be fine, but COVID-19 visitation guidelines would limit the guest list. Patrick then found a beautiful outdoor location in front of the hospital.

Every graduation needs an authority figure to call out the graduate’s name. So Patrick worked with Katelyn’s mom to bring Katelyn’s principal over 20 miles from Henderson to the hospital in Aurora. There, friends and family held a mini-graduation ceremony for Katelyn, two days before the full graduation ceremony of 400+ students at her school.

A photo of Katelyn Anderson, center
Katelyn Anderson, center, at her high school graduation. Photo courtesy of Katelyn Anderson.

On May 24 at 1 p.m., Katelyn’s support crew including Patrick, family, friends, teachers and school administrators gathered to hold a special ceremony.

Guests donned graduation robes. The principal gave a speech and presented Katelyn with her official high school diploma. She also received a yearbook, signed by her teachers and friends.

A feeling of relief swept over Katelyn. After her significant injuries from a terrible accident and 12 days in the hospital, she felt the joy of starting a new chapter and credits Patrick with making it happen.

“I guarantee if it wasn’t for Emma, that I wouldn’t have had any graduation ceremony at all,” Katelyn said. “It was awesome of her to take the time to put something together and get to a personal level with me.”

Katelyn was impressed and surprised by special touches that Patrick coordinated. She received a personalized graduation card, signed by all of Patrick’s colleagues who took are of Katelyn during her stay. She received her favorite cake, red velvet, with graduation themed plates and decorations.

A photo of Katelyn Anderson
Katelyn Anderson at her high school graduation. Photo courtesy of Katelyn Anderson.

“The cake was awesome,” Katelyn said. “I was not expecting that at all. It was definitely the brighter side of everything that was going on.”

These graduation supplies were funded out of the trauma department’s budget, to support Patrick’s effort in celebrating Katelyn.

“I feel like that’s pretty unique for them to purchase,” Patrick said. “That speaks a lot to the trauma department and trying to celebrate with patients alongside them.’’

Patrick was thrilled to be able to honor Katelyn and make her feel special during a challenging time.

“Once she was outside, in the fresh air, she was able to really be present, and smiling and laughing and excited,” said Patrick. “She was sitting in her wheelchair and threw her graduation cap up. It was really sweet.”

“I feel like everyone was honored that we came down during our work day to watch her and support her,” Patrick said. “I think they were surprised that we cared that much about her personal life and wanted to celebrate her victories alongside her. We see a lot of the sad moments for patients but not a lot of the moments where patients get to experience joy.”

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About the author

Christine Freer joined UCHealth as a communications specialist in 2022. Prior to joining UCHealth, Freer served as the lead public information officer at the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County. She spent the last 11 years working in public health, program management, and health care marketing and communications. Freer earned a Bachelor of Arts in public health promotion from Purdue University and a Master of Public Health in social marketing from the University of South Florida. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Jim, and their German shepherd, Lincoln.