On 10K, a sister’s love carries on

The 10th floor of OHSU’s Peter O. Kohler Pavilion is a meaningful place for Maddie Collet. Her sister, Allison, was a patient in the unit after she was diagnosed with brain cancer. She passed away when Maddie was 13.

Maddie, a Certified Nursing Assistant, now cares for patients on that same floor. Below, she shares her family’s story and the ways in which Allison continues to inspire and influence her own path.

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When my sister was 5 years old, she decided she wanted to be a doctor. She was accepted to the OHSU School of Medicine in 2007, and she would have been an absolutely incredible physician had she had the chance.

Allison found out she had a brain tumor when she was 19. She underwent surgery and a round of radiation, and the tumor turned out to be benign. During her first semester, Allison had a seizure at the gym. A trip to OHSU’s Emergency Department and an MRI scan showed that the tumor had come back, and it was malignant.

After a long and hard fight, my sister passed away in 2009 when I was 13. OHSU actually held a memorial service for her, and there’s a tree planted for her on campus.

I suppose you could say I grew up in hospitals because looking back on my childhood, those memories definitely stand out from the rest. Weirdly, I’m obsessed with the medical world and I can’t imagine myself in any other field – I would absolutely attribute that to Allison. I guess her obsession must have rubbed off on me!

This past summer I was on a backpacking trip when Nurse Manager Carol Holm called me about a position on 10K. We clicked right away and she ended up hiring me over the phone. The next thing I knew, I was flying back to Oregon and moving to Portland to start a new job at OHSU.

When my mom told me my sister had once been a patient on 10K, I seriously contemplated quitting. Allison was once in one of these beds. My parents once paced up and down these halls. This is a sacred space – lives are saved, lost and forever changed here. But throughout all of the ups and downs, there has been one constant: her. It’s been such a cathartic and therapeutic experience for me.

I’m so happy to be part of the 10K family and humbled by the fact that I get to share it with my sister. She’s here every day, helping me answer call lights and take vitals. She’s here watching the sunrise over Mt. Hood on early morning tram rides. Feeling her presence is something I’ve needed for a long, long time.

Our family’s relationship with OHSU is very special, and the opportunity to share Allie’s story is also very special for me. She always was and always will be my greatest role model.

 

onward

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If you would like to support OHSU’s work to end cancer or to make a gift in honor of a loved one, please visit www.OnwardOHSU.com.

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Comments

  1. Wow.

  2. Absolutely heartbreaking and beautiful.

  3. I remember Allison from her early days with that class, Maddie, and recall very clearly very much her classmates cared about her.

    Thank you for posting this. The very best of luck as you work with her at your side caring for our patients.

  4. Maddie, I was so proud to be Allison’s aunt and be a (distant) part of her life as she, so bravely and gracefully, fought her battle. And I am so proud of you and to be your (favorite) aunt. You have written a beautiful piece and will keep Allison’s story alive by doing what you are doing.

  5. What a beautiful story and thank you so much for sharing. These are the stories we hear every day that make us proud to work here.

  6. Maddie, thank you for sharing your touching personal story with us. We are so fortunate to have you on staff. May your sister’s memory touch you in so many special ways throughout your lifetime.

  7. Beautiful story–thank you for sharing it, Maddie.

About the Author

Lisa McMahan is a social media coordinator working to discover and share stories at OHSU. Got a story idea? Connect with the team: socialmedia@ohsu.edu.

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