Tayler Calabrese

Sept. 6, 2021

Nurse brings bagpipes to boost patient’s spirits

Tayler Calabrese is no stranger to hospitals. She’s had 14 extensive inner-ear related surgeries in her life, one as recently as 2019, and works as charge nurse in the oncology unit at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital.

Tayler Calabrese following her 2018 Magnet Nurse of the Year award.

“It’s why I am a nurse today,” said Calabrese, a past Magnet Nurse of the Year award winner. “The nurses at University of Colorado Hospital were amazing and my experiences there absolutely informs how I treat patients today.”

This summer, one of Calabrese’s stage 4 cancer patients was nominated for firefighter of the year honors. Unfortunately, he was extremely ill and wasn’t able to attend the ceremony.

“He was so discouraged but there was no way he could go,” Calabrese said. “And I knew exactly what that felt like.”

She decided to bring the ceremony to the patient, and reached out to his wife Megan Palato for help.

Their plan came together quickly. On a balmy, summer evening, under the guise that he would be able to watch the livestreamed ceremony from the HRH lobby, Calabrese helped her patient get dressed, hooked up his pain pump and oxygen and wheeled him outside.

A fire truck arrived at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital and helped boost a patient’s spirits.

When the distinct sound of bagpipes echoed across the healing garden, the patient’s eyes widened. He sat up as straight as he could when he saw three fire engine trucks and more than 50 people cheering and clapping for him.

“It gave me chills,” said Calabrese.

Palato agreed.

“She (Calabrese) is so phenomenal and made it possible for so many close friends and family to really just enjoy and celebrate my husband,” Palato said.

The gathering lasted two hours, well past when her shift ended but Calabrese stayed. She didn’t mind. It was heartwarming to hear from so many who said they hadn’t seen him this happy in months.

“Being able to pour everything into making people’s terrible circumstances a little better means a lot to me,” Calabrese said.

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About the author

Molly Blake is a communications specialist for UCHealth. She joined the team in 2019. Molly spent much of her journalism career freelance writing for various publications including The New York Times, NBC news, alumni magazines and more. She is the proud spouse of a United States Marine Corps veteran, and wrote extensively about their life in the military.