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Kaplan said she needed emotional support, but again, “nobody approached us — not a social worker, not a chaplain.”That experience inspired Kaplan to help Montefiore create the support center in 2011, complete with a soothing waterfall, pictures of cherry blossoms, and private rooms with reclining chairs.Last month, she won an award from the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare for her work at the center, which has seen an estimated 10,000 families so far.Once they sit down, the tears start flowing and the tissues come out.”About half of the people who come in the door are dealing with end-of-life situations, she said.
At other hospitals, conversations like these occur in sterile conference rooms, or at the patient’s bedside, Salomon said — “There’s no dedicated space for something like that.”There’s no dedicated space for hospital weddings, either, but that didn’t stop Kaplan from hosting one.
She grew so close to a cancer patient and her partner of 14 years that they insisted on getting married inside the caregiver support center, with Kaplan as maid of honor.
In one recent case, he said, he helped a family call the patient’s son in jail.
The son, who had just learned his father was dying, had to decide whether to use his travel privileges to visit his father in the hospital, or to attend the funeral.
“Nobody talked to us.”Kaplan returned to the hospital in 2005, during a “cascading course of unstoppable events” at the end of her husband’s life.
Rushed to the critical care unit after his cancer spread to his liver, he died at age 50.“I was falling apart,” she said.The woman’s husband, who was in his 30s, had been rushed to the hospital in cardiac arrest.Kaplan said she held the woman’s head to stop her from banging it against the concrete. Instead Kaplan called in a palliative care doctor, Say Salomon, who calmed her and assured her her reaction was normal.Randi Kaplan, the social worker who runs the support center at Montefiore’s Henry and Lucy Moses campus, a 1,500-bed hospital in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, knows that “invisible” feeling.She spent hours there during her husband’s six-and-a-half-hour surgery for a brain tumor.“We were in a very sterile environment,” Kaplan recalled.Kaplan later held the woman’s hand while a surgeon told her her husband had died.