Campus angels

(Edmonton) A terminally ill single mother of three will be arriving in Edmonton on Thursday, Oct. 13, to live out her final wish: to create a special holiday memory for her children.

Medical and dental students are involved in helping grant the wish for this Maritime mom and they will be creating a video diary of her trip as a keepsake for her children.

The Class of 2014 in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry has adopted The Angels Anonymous Connection as their charity of choice, an organization that grants wishes to terminally ill adults who are in their last year of life. The medical and dental students at the University of Alberta are raising money for the organization and have also been matched with the woman from New Brunswick, whose name is Monica. The students are working through the Faculty’s chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. The U of A medical school was the first Canadian chapter of GHHS established back in 2004. Currently it is one of only three medical schools in Canada, and the only one in Western Canada. With the support of GHHS, the faculty has developed a “Humanism program,” which undertakes initiatives to give back to society and honours those who exemplify excellence in humanism, clinical care and compassion.

The single mother, who is dying of cancer, has three children, ages 10, eight and one. Monica has travelled out west with her two older children for her dream holiday. The medical and dental students have put together a “Welcome to Edmonton” card and gift basket for the family, which will be waiting for the family in their hotel room at the Fantasyland Hotel. Students will also take the family to the Telus World of Science – Edmonton on the weekend.

Wendy Grahl, the executive director and founder of The Angels Anonymous Connection, is a cancer survivor who was given a five to 10 per cent chance of surviving in 2006.

“I am a four-time cancer survivor and realized pretty early you have to pay back,” says Grahl, whose home-based charity has been in existence for 10 years. “We are the only active organization in Canada that grants wishes to terminally ill adults. About 90 per cent of our wishes involve children because parents want to give their children one last happy memory. They just want to get away and forget about their health problems and have fun with their family.”

Martha Decker, a medical student with the Class of 2014 who is also the vice-president of public relations for the GHHS, said her class is “extremely excited to have taken on (this charity) as our class cause for the duration of our medical education. As future health-care practitioners we believe in the importance of health of not only the body, but also the mind; a form of health exemplified by the work of The Angels Anonymous Connection.

“Assisting a terminally ill individual to fulfill one final wish can make all the difference for their family's emotional well-being and dealing with the loss of a loved one. We hope to help make Monica and her children's time in Edmonton a very special one; full of memories that Monica's children can hold onto for many years to come. We look forward to working with The Angels Anonymous Connection over the next three years to better the lives of families dealing with terminal illness in need of a helping hand.”

Grahl says her organization was touched and grateful when they found out the Class of 2014 chose The Angels Anonymous Connection as their charity of choice. “We were overwhelmed that they wanted to do this for us. I think it’s going to be great for them and good for us. There is no greater good than to help. We can’t thank them enough.”