Monday, December 21, 2015

Making Last Wishes Come True

By Lucy M. Pritchett

Losing two of her family members to cancer moved Melissa Pritchett's life in a different direction. 

A change of heart. A broken heart. Either one can send you down a different path in life. Melissa Pritchett’s turning point came from a broken heart when her grandfather and brother-in-law both died of cancer within three months of each other. She took care of both of them.

“I held my brother-in-law in my arms while he was dying of brain cancer,” Melissa says. “He was 37. I was 26 years old and had no idea how dying worked. That the bodily organs begin to shut down. All I could do was comfort him and tell him stories.”

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ became her rallying cry, and Melissa applied to nursing school the next week.

“I couldn’t handle the grief. I wanted to make changes in the way oncology patients were treated.”

Melissa doesn't mind doing whatever necessary to keep her patients happy. 

By 2011 she had earned her bachelor's degree from Indiana University Southeast and a group of initials after her name: RN, BSN, OCN. So began her career. Now, at age 35, she is the daytime charge nurse with the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at University of Louisville Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health.

Taking care of oncology patients is quite a switch from Melissa’s previous position as assistant general manager for Marriott Hotels. But, she says, she has turned her hospitality skills to hospital skills.

“I kind of run the unit like a hotel. I don’t treat the patients as patients, but rather as guests. I always try to make their stay better. They don’t want to be there, and anything I can do to give them a better day, I want to do that if it is in my power.”

She gets to know her patients and their families. They are much more to her than a room number or a disease.

Her enthusiasm for going above and beyond for her “guests” has included everything from stopping to buy a fountain soda for one to setting up a telephone conversation with singer and actor Donny Osmond for another. She has also managed to arrange two weddings and set the scene for a proposal.

“I want to make their last wishes happen,” she says. “I am very persistent in making those wishes come true.

“The thing I didn’t do well was give my brother-in-law a good death because I didn’t know how. But now I get do-overs. I get to help my patients get the best out of their end-of-life experience and help them have a more peaceful death. Honoring my patients is my passion.”

Establishing good relationships with the patients has become an important part of her job that she values. 


  1. Melissa, I applaud you for taking such heartwarming care of your 'guests.' Keep up the good work. People need you!

  2. Melissa I am so proud of you and the wonderful nurse and patient advocate you've become! Keep up the good work and I know you will influence all around you with your spirit of love and kindness. You are following Jesus commands, to put others before ourselves. May God Bless you and guide you as you follow His lead and His word! Im proud to know you from birth,your parents have taught you well and love you. You make us all proud!


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